Two years after the release of their latest opus “Obsidian”, Paradise Lost has finally been able to tour for the acclaimed album this year. The current European tour, which began in early October and concludes in Lublin tomorrow, arrived for three shows in Finland this week. Paradise Lost have earned themselves a spot among my favorite bands recently, it has been five years since I last saw them live and five years since I last stepped foot into Pakkahuone, the venue for last Tuesday’s gig. Thus the stars were aligned well enough for refreshing my memory of a Paradise Lost live experience, and toiling along with the Britons were Hangman’s Chair from France.
The show was originally slated to take place at Klubi, which is a smaller venue adjacent to Pakkahuone. The smaller capacity venue had sold out well in advance, and the announcement of the gig moving into the bigger hall came just a few hours before the doors opened. The last minute change-up felt odd and rushed, as many people who were left without tickets had probably made other plans for the evening, and switching from the intimate club to the larger room ran the risk of being a real mood killer if enough people didn’t show up. Then again, the atmosphere would be much less claustrophobic with plenty of room to move around in Pakkahuone, so the venue change really had its ups and downs.
The frenchmen of Hangman’s Chair began their set at 19:30 sharp in a sparsely populated Pakkahuone. Their music was heavy, doomy and atmospheric. The band focused on working their instruments with ominous intent to create the desired ambiance without even trying to interact with the crowd too much. Some of the band members gestured at times aggressively for the crowd to join in on their gloomy party, but the response remained reservedly polite at best. The cheers were loud enough between the songs, but during the action itself nearly everyone in the hall opted for quiet observance. I couldn’t tell if it was their usual style or a protest to the lackluster crowd response, but the members of Hangman’s Chair made a very hasty exit once their forty five minutes were up. Most of them returned right after to pack their instruments and make way for Paradise Lost, so perhaps they were just observing a tight schedule.
Heeding the same punctuality as their French colleagues, Paradise Lost took the stage exactly at the allotted time. The opening notes of “Enchantment” reverberating from the loudspeakers set the mood for the crowd, who were instantly receptive to the band as they entered the stage. Everything seemed to be working out perfectly, the band sounded sharp, the crowd were very appreciative, and the large room of Pakkahuone was packed but not to the point of discomfort. After “Enchantment” the band moved on to explore their newer sound with “Forsaken” and “Blood and Chaos” from their last two albums. Whereas “Forsaken” ranks among the weaker songs on “Obsidian”, “Blood and Chaos” was a great and lively pick off of “Medusa”. Someone in the audience shouted out “Eternal” before vocalist Nick Holmes had finished introducing the song, prompting him to humorously ask if people had looked up their setlist on the internet. It is a somewhat sad truth that, considering the volume of information available online, one must pretty much actively avoid being spoiled on details such as band setlists and whatnot.
The concert trudged on somewhat uneventfully, which is to say that the band sounded good and they suffered no technical difficulties, and the audience were involved to the degree that the cheers rang robustly in the hall in between songs. Old favorites such as “One Second”, “The Last Time” and “Say Just Words” electrified the audience for real, while “No Hope in Sight” from the band’s newer material has clearly grown to a fan favorite. The main set concluded at the hour mark, and after sufficiently lengthy and excited cries for more, Paradise Lost returned to the stage for three tunes. The band honored their latest album with five songs on their setlist, two of which they saved for the encore. “Ghosts”, the “Obsidian” track that seamlessly marries their present and their past sound, has quickly taken its place as the closing act of Paradise Lost shows. Aside from the new songs, the setlist last Tuesday at Pakkahuone was a disappointingly predictable ensemble of tried and tested Paradise Lost tunes.
More than the setlist, however, I was eagerly looking forward to see how the departure of Waltteri Väyrynen would impact the band’s sound and live show. As talented a drummer as Väyrynen is, his current stand-in Guido Montanarini did a fine and low-key job behind the drum kit. He banged his percussions behind a plexiglass, and the drummer situation wasn’t touched upon in any of Holmes’s brief comments to the audience. Paradise Lost and Hangman’s Chair were the perfect soundtrack to a damp and dark November night, and they made the dismal times of covid-19 seem like a distant memory. The band is still going strong well over thirty years since their inception, drawing sold-out crowds across Europe, so here’s to the evergreen gloom of Paradise Lost!
Pictures: Maria Zapf