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Paradise Lost Deathstars
London Astoria 18 November 2003
I was disappointing to find that after all the extensive touring that Paradise Lost have done this year, that their first headlining Astoria appearance in a few years, was so poorly attended. The downstairs area was comfortably full, but by no means packed, though it must be said that those in the crowd seemed to be particularly looking forward to the headliners.
With Finnish metallers Amorphis unfortunately unable to play a support slot, we were entertained by a 5-piece Goth/Industrial Metal band called Deathstars. Looking like a collision between a hair metal band and the likes of Marilyn Manson or the Murderdolls they fair blasted the evening off with a terrific opening number that was as good and heavy as it was loud – and it was LOUD, I can tell you. Vocalist Whiplasher introduced the band ‘This is our first time in London. We are Deathstars from Sweden” and they continued through the impressive ‘Semi-Automatic and ‘Little Angel’ at which point it was noticeable that the crowd begin to respond warmly to the band.
In fact Whiplasher looked more like a cowboy than a metal singer with his Stetson, books, low slung jeans and bandana, but his spoken rather than sung delivery reminded me at times of both Nick Holmes (of Paradise Lost) and even Eric Clayton (of Saviour Machine). The band’s other main composer Nightmare Industries really did look like a refugee from Manson’s band and windmilled his locks while furiously driving the rhythm along with his bass. However from there onwards, my interest dipped as the following tunes, driven more by the triggered samples and synthesizers than by the two guitarists, lacked identity. The title track of the debut album, ‘Synthetic Generation’ closed out the set, with powerful drumming and strobe effects making for a strong finale.
A confidently delivered London debut from these Swedes.
Setlist: (unknown tune) / Semi-Automatic / Little Angel / Modern Death / The Revolution Exodus / Syndrome / Synthetic Generation
After a break of half an hour or so, Paradise Lost’s entrance on stage was met with huge cheers and they launched into ‘Erased’ from their current ‘Symbol of Life’ album. Their fan-base may be a little smaller than it used to be, but it is still very enthusiastic and vocal lot and the band seemed very pleased with the response, smiling broadly as they played their hearts out. Even front man Nick Holmes looked at ease and his between song remarks were noticeably less caustic than at some of the other gigs I’ve seen the band play this year, noticeably at the Bloodstock Festival (when admittedly they had some equipment problems) and at the Festival de la Rotonde in France (where the band didn’t seem at all impressed with the venue).
The material for the set was culled from the band’s releases over the last 10 years or so, starting with ‘Shades of God’, represented in the form of the evergreen ‘As I Die’, through ‘Icon’ in the form of ‘Widow’ right up to the present day. Both ‘Behind The Grey’ and ‘So Much is Lost’ from the controversial ‘Host’ album were played much to my delight, as they are by far the standout tracks on an otherwise much maligned and overlooked disk. Unfortunately only ‘Shadowkings’ made an appearance from ‘Draconian Times’, the band’s creative zenith and very much the disk that defines the ‘Gothic Metal’ genre.
These days the synths, click tracks and gothic/light-industrial samples dominate the bands compositions and tunes like ‘Mouth’ from ‘Believe in Nothing’ are shorter, punchier and more immediate than the grander, heavier and often more ponderous compositions from the first half of their career. With ‘Symbol of Life’ they appear to have found a nice balance, melding a heaviness to their newer sound which means that songs like ‘Erase’, ‘Isolate’ and ‘Prey Nightfall’ appeal to both old and new fans in much the same way that ‘Mercy’ and the closing number ‘One Second’ do. At the same time they can have a little fun evidenced by their cover of The Communards’ ‘Small Town Boy’.
So, all in all, a fine performance by a band that appears to be comfortable with itself after several releases that has seen a series of changes in their sound. The older songs have been nicely reworked to fit their newer style and there is an evenness to the set that there hasn’t been until this year. Something is clearly working as the band have been on the road almost all year, during which I’ve seen them 6 times. The fact that they still appear to be happy playing with each other speaks volumes and bodes well for the band’s future.
Setlist: Erased / Widow / Behind the Grey / Mystify / No Celebration / Shadowkings / Symbol of Life / So Much is Lost / Mouth / Prey Nightfall / As I Die / Perfect Mask / Mercy /
Say Just Words
Encores: Isolate / Small Town Boy / One Second
Review: Charlie Farrell