Paradise Lost have had themselves a pretty excellent 2015; The Plague Within, the band’s latest studio offering, was received joyously from fans and critics alike, and saw the band hitting the festival circuit, and an extensive tour. Riding on the momentum, they have now released a double-disc live album (triple-disc in some editions, with the third disc being a bonus DVD) entitled Symphony For The Lost.
As the title suggests, Symphony For The Lost features Paradise Lost live with an orchestra and choir, as well as a straight-forward live set, in discs one and two respectively. This formula has been done in heavy metal and hard rock many times over the years, with Metallica’s S&M and Deep Purple’s Concerto for Group and Orchestra being two notable examples. With a penchant for melody and drama in their sound, it seems that Paradise Lost were tailor-made to get the symphonic treatment at some point in their career. Metallica fans were divided between those that loved S&M (pun somewhat intended) and those that thought it softened the band’s sound too much; Symphony For The Lost will probably create a similar reaction.
Recorded over a two-night period in Plovdiv, Bulgaria, Paradise Lost’s first set, captured on disc one, features the Orchestra of State Opera Plovdiv and the Rodna Pesen Choir playing alongside the band. The selection of songs is excellent, full of career-spanning hits like “Gothic,” “Joys Of Emptiness,” and even a newer track, “Victim of The Past.” At times, like in the aforementioned track, the symphony backing Paradise Lost blends in perfectly with the band, giving them an extra dimension that brings out melodies, and acts as an extension to them. More often than not, however, I found the symphonic elements to be too distracting, opening track “Tragic Idol” being a prime example of this, with the brass section is a little too high in the mix, and comes off as too bombastic, which takes away from the heaviness of the song. “Soul Courageous” is also a bit lackluster, with vocalist Nick Holmes sounding a bit distracted, and the orchestra/choir makes the tune sound like a terrible James Bond title sequence. Disc one is hit or miss; when it hits, Symphony For The Lost is a thing of beauty, but when it misses, it’s really more due to the incongruence of mixing such heavy music with a symphony, as Paradise Lost perform their parts perfectly (just listen to the solo on “Gothic”).
Disc two is a normal live set, with another collection of songs that mix new and old alike. There are a few more songs in this set from the band’s synthpop years, like “Erased” and “Isolate,” though they sound a bit heavier live than they do on the studio versions. What’s interesting to note here is the band sound just as comfortable by themselves as they did with the orchestra. Just as in the first disc, Paradise Lost put on a great performance.
This album isn’t exactly indispensable unless you’re a collector like myself, but the bonus DVD on the special edition is pretty cool, featuring the full concert performance, as well as a documentary of the event. The symphony may prove to be a distraction at times, but if you can look past that, Symphony For The Lost has some pretty brilliant moments.