PARADISE LOST / SÓLSTAFIR / THE ATLAS MOTH
Date: 10th October, 2018
Venue: House Of Blues Chicago
Ticket: $25 / €22
I consider PARADISE LOST as a band of many faces and this is because during their three-decade history, the Brits have changed their sound and style, entering in different eras. The interesting part of this is that the Brits have been successful in what they have chosen to do, no matter if part of the Metal community has been super resistant to accept every album with the PARADISE LOST logo on the cover. What I am trying to say here is that PARADISE LOST have not paint themselves in a corner by strictly releasing music that remains inside the box many metalheads like to put their favorite bands and get frustrated the moment they see a deviation from the norm… I guess it is about time to realize that PARADISE LOST will never become a ‘cookie cutter band’ and will keep evolving / changing their sound according to their own artistic needs.
With all of the above in mind, I was excited to watch PARADISE LOST onstage to see how much they have changed as a live band and also listen how the songs from their latest albums sound on concert setting – especially hearing material from their last two albums that I think are awesome. Despite the show being on the middle of the week, House Of Blues (HoB) was hosting a big audience waiting to check their homeboys of THE ATLAS MOTH to literally lift the curtain for the first time (there is always a curtain in front of the HoB stage during breaks) for the night. “What’s up, Chicago? We are THE ATLAS MOTH; it’s good to be home”, guitarist and singer Stavros said before kicking off the set with “The Streets Of Bombay”. In full disclosure, I have to admit that I had no idea of THE ATLAS MOTH’s musical doings before this show, and sometimes this is the best way to meet a new band. Yes, checking a band for the first time in concert means that all the safety a studio recording is offering is thrown out of the window and you get the real deal stripped off anything that potentially could hide weakness. And THE ATLAS MOTH did impress me, although their music has a lot of layers that can be a challenge to peel off live when the volume is pushed to the max. Still, I totally enjoyed the groove served by the Chicagoans and really liked how Stavros and David were exchanging lead singing roles. “Coma Noir” came without posing and its faster tempos got more people to join the show so the HoB was successfully getting primed for the rest of the night. With 30 minutes in their disposal, THE ATLAS MOTH spent most of their onstage time playing songs from their latest album and considering how awesome “Galactic Brain” sounded I placed “Coma Noir” on top places of my to-check list. It is always fun to see how people react when a band mentions how great a show was on another town; in this instance, Stavros commented on the Cleveland show adding that it was “the best crowd” they had. Of course, people reacted and in the end made more noise, something that was totally deserved because THE ATLAS MOTH delivered a tight set.
THE ATLAS MOTH setlist:
01. “The Streets Of Bombay”
02. “Coma Noir”
03. “Galactic Brain”
04. “Actual Human Blood”
THE ATLAS MOTH
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It has been a ridiculous long time since we attended the last SÓLSTAFIR concert, and after thinking a bit, I believe the last occasion was on the other side of the Atlantic. Damn, that’s too long and just for this reason I was very happy to reset the clock and promise that this will not happen again. After all, SÓLSTAFIR have been a consistent band when it comes to music quality, but what I find most interesting with these Icelanders is their multi-character and rather unique music that knows no boundaries and genre, attracting followers from everywhere. Yeah, there was not a pure Metal audience that night and it felt awesome.
Right on schedule, the Icelandic powerhouse showed up onstage with the kind of lights that make the nowadays photographer’s life extremely difficult... But who cares when the sound is this clear and the band puts 100% on the performance from the get-go. Yes, after the taped-intro, the fast rhythm guitar part of “Köld” introduced to those who had no idea of what SÓLSTAFIR are capable to do from the stage. Even though my camera did not like the stage lights, I loved how the cold-looking colors completed Addi’s deeply emotional and most expressional singing. The lights did change but only to color-paint the stage orange which I think was a better fit for the slightly happier riffs and groove of “Ísafold”. Even if you don’t have an idea of what SÓLSTAFIR sound like, their music gets quickly under your skin, and soon enough you find yourself moving with their groove and taking in all the melodies. And this becomes really important when adding to this equation the fact that SÓLSTAFIR do not use the English language in their lyrics, and I believe we all know how difficult metalheads are with non-English speaking bands…After some tuning, the first notes of my favorite “Fjara” made it even harder to take decent photos because it became hard to focus on just doing that…
Addi broke his talking silence to introduce “Bláfjall” but not in the typical “here’s a song from that album” way; he addressed the sickness that has been infecting almost every society all around the world in an alarming rate, talking about depression and suicide, but still no one seems to really care. On top of this, the drug-based treatments cannot single-handedly help the ever-growing list of suffers because it is society’s role to get rid of this infection that feeds from the energy people chose to put on this advertised “always staying connected” through the social media network – there is nothing connecting you through channels... Quite the opposite I’d say. Anyways, this is not the time or the place for even trying to scratch the surface of this.
Ending the set with just the fourth song of the night felt extremely short, but the energy SÓLSTAFIR put on “Goddess Of The Ages” was extremely addictive. Addi left his guitar and stepped into the photo-pit greeting people at the front rows while delivering the first lyrics of this 14-minute slow-burning killer song. The way this one is building up the tension is perfect for live shows, and to make this even special, Addi stepped on top of the huge PA on stage left before returning on his guitar duties and join his bandmates to end this number with a bang. There was a nice “scream for me” game and hopefully we will get soon(er) another chance to enjoy SÓLSTAFIR live and for a longer set.
04. “Goddess Of The Ages”
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Before getting onboard their 30th anniversary tour, PARADISE LOST set up a poll asking fans to pick songs for the setlist. This was a really cool move because it showcases a band respecting the fans wanting to give something back, and because it proves with actions that the Brits are comfortable (and confident) to play material even from the very early days. And as I said, being a band with different eras and in some cases radical changes in the sound, doing something like this, is (also) a bold move. In any case, we were soon to find out but, to be honest, I did not care much about this because it has been a long time since the last PARADISE LOST show, so spending my brain energy to contemplate on such issues was a total waste.
The taped intro kicked off the set with Nick Holmes saying a simple “Good evening, Chicago” before letting the huge sound take over the PA system with the massive “The Enemy”. Ok, the lights were even crappier than before (that strange purple-ish halo made it difficult to just see faces, let alone take pics), but the sound was great, so no major complaints here. In case you haven’t noticed, Nick is using a teleprompter for the lyrics and during the first couple of songs the machine did not want to cooperate, so he looked a bit stressed. However, I don’t think he missed any lyric-lines, so I think it is all about feeling safe that in case he gets stuck he will have a lifeline to grasp on. “Hey Chicago, how are you doing? We are PARADISE LOST”, Nick stated the obvious and without spending any more non-playing-music time, he let “Pity The Sadness” to do the rest. Oh my, all the memories flooded my mind reminding me of the days when I was moving from the freshly released “Icon” all the way back to the beginning of PARADISE LOST back catalogue and spending a healthy amount of time on “Shades Of God”. PARADISE LOST is definitely not the most energetic band onstage, and basically everyone stays on his spot, so all the attention is on the music performance which in this case was stellar. I should leave Gregor Mackintosh out of this because he looked like a caged beast on stage right. And then it was time to visit the rather controversial “One Second” LP with the album’s title track that sounded equally awesome live, even though the electronic sounds were definitely something new and for many a hard pill to swallow back in the late ‘90s when it was released. So, the first three songs of the set PARADISE LOST proved the high level of confidence they have going back and forth in their discography, although and as I will be soon explaining there were some caveats.
Nick mentioned the band’s 30th anniversary before taking a longer leap in time with another title track for the genre shaping album “Gothic”. Of course, the vocals did not sound as crude like they did during the ‘90s and this was another great memory of my teenage years; the long and sometimes silly arguments of how much PARADISE LOST have gone soft simply because Nick’s growling was less... growling... “Thank you, I should talk with my Death Metal voice”, Nick joked as if he had just read my mind... It was time to visit the band’s last album, “Medusa”, and help me realize that PARADISE LOST sound equally awesome now as they did in the early ‘90s, and at some cases heavier and Doom-ier. That’s right, the British band has already opened new grounds in their discography and have magnified the Doom elements that were already lurking in the darkest corners. The keyboard intro sent shivers down my spine as “Enchantment” kicked in and was welcomed with some nice chanting along and this going back and forth in the PARADISE LOST backcatalogue spread the wide musical spectrum this band has been developing the last three decades. I guess it is about time to appreciate every single era of this legendary band and enjoy (in hindsight) the progression and the development with every studio release. This may be a personal thing but as I am recalling all these memories, I can easily connect every PARADISE LOST album with different times of my life, giving me the impression that we grew up together. Sure, this sounds a bit crazy, but this is exactly how it feels for me. “Erased” was a tad faster and as Nick said “has a little bit fancy feel so feel free to dance” so indeed there was more movement on the HoB arena. In general, the audience was not the most energetic I have seen and was occasionally involved, something I will attribute to the bizarre mix from different groups. This is not bad because if PARADISE LOST are expanding the fanbase, then it means there will be more opportunities for them to cross the Atlantic and this is something I mostly welcome.
The aforementioned Doom elements in PARADISE LOST’s music made a glorious appearance in the miserable “Medusa” that sounded unbelievable and gave Nick a really hard time following all the different vocal types. He acknowledged this with this comment: “I had forgotten how difficult this song is”. Fans started asking for songs and there was one request (I did not get the title) in which Nick responded “do you want to come up and do it?” obviously joking about how some songs are better left in the past and I can definitely accept this. Yeah, and in danger of sounding sacrilegious, I would go ahead and say that both “An Eternity Of Lies” and “Beneath Broken Earth” came out way better than “As I Die” did. Especially the second of the both sounded as miserable as Nick said it would. “See if you can mosh to it, it’s a challenge. If you will, I’ll join you”, he added before letting Greg lay down this down-tuned and bone-crushing riff. Did I mention the Doom elements? Oh yes, I did... It (also) a bit funny hearing Nick introducing “Faith Divides Us - Death Unites Us” as a song on the dance-y category... Talking about British humor, eh? No matter the case, this was another great one that proved to be a great pairing with the cellos pre-recorded part that introduced another shivers down your spine song; yes, it was time for some wah pedal action and for the amazing “Embers Fire”. This was another sweet reminder of an era when music (nor the money to buy / acquire records) was not in abundance, so we’d listen to every album to the point we had memorized every single lyric line and had song-part favorites (believe it or not). In my case, the lines “the ones who cherish are the ones who'll go” and the guitar solo were the sweetest parts (and still are).
Having short in between-songs breaks made the setlist feel super short, and there we were, waiting for the encore that started with hopeful “No Hope In Sight”... Great way to start the encore, right? With the Chicago winter grinning upon us, “The Longest Winter” sounded most fitting but I hope it won’t turn out to be prophetic too. “Thank you very much, Chicago! House Of Blues, this is our last song for tonight, let’s go” were the last spoken words we got from Nick because the dancier [sic] “Say Just Words” was the best way to end this amazing show.
We got great performances from all three bands and to be honest I would not matter to get another reprise for the last two for whom is more difficult to cross the big pond. Until next time then.
PARADISE LOST setlist:
01. “The Enemy”
02. “Pity The Sadness”
03. “One Second”
05. “Blood And Chaos”
09. “An Eternity Of Lies”
10. “As I Die”
11. “Beneath Broken Earth”
12. “Faith Divides Us - Death Unites Us”
13. “Embers Fire”
14. “No Hope In Sight”
15. “The Longest Winter”
16. “Say Just Words”
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