Feb 2023 28

Album CoverHOST
Album: IX
Category: Gothic / Rock / Darkwave
Label: Nuclear Blast
Release Date: 2023-02-24
Author: Ilker Yücel (Ilker81x)


There is often a perception of musicians delving into genres outside of their usual output to be a less-than-authentic pursuit of wider acceptance. Of course, it often proves to be an erroneous mischaracterization, and would certainly be so for Greg Mackintosh and Nick Holmes, who have proven through their work in Paradise Lost a profound affinity for darkly electronic sound design and gothic melodies, even if filtered through the decidedly aggressive lens of metal. As such, the more darkwave approach of HOST may not be as much of a stretch for the duo as some might surmise, but IX does offer a more concentrated exploration of the poppier and more danceable facets of their shared background in the clubs of West Yorkshire.

Traces of their more metal leanings are perhaps unavoidable, but Holmes and Mackintosh do well to infuse HOST with a distinct palette of richly organic and electronic textures. Songs like “Divine Emotion” with its distorted pianos, pizzicato strings, and sustained bass drones, or the string arrangements and bombastic percussion of “Years of Suspicion” bear a distinctly symphonic vibe, Holmes’ vocals bearing an almost operatic grandeur. The same could be said of “Instinct” as its choral effects add to the buildup of bubbling electronic bass and beats, the crystalline guitar arpeggios and forceful beats enforcing an epic ambience that compensates for the familiar simplicity of its chord progression. But it is in songs like “Tomorrow’s Sky,” “Hiding From Tomorrow,” “A Troubled Mind,” and “Inquisition” that IX truly shines as they present lush orchestrations of spryly percolating synths, distorted bass tones, and sparkling guitar passages and solos that could almost be reminiscent of Depeche Mode’s output in the ‘90s. All the while, Holmes conservatively infuses some lovely harmonies that elevate their respective moments, making them all the more memorable and dramatic.

One glaring misstep in this writer’s estimation would simply be the placement of the cover of A Flock of Seagulls’ “I Ran” as the album’s closing track. Holmes and Mackintosh remain faithful to the basics of the song, while the dynamic guitar solo and sparser, slower rhythm give it a personality all its own; the ending is just a tad abrupt, and makes one wonder why it had not been placed more interstitially on IX. Nevertheless, the album is an effective debut from HOST, one that may not set the darkwave scene on fire, but is surely enough to light a powerful and welcome spark.
Track list:

  1. Wretched Soul
  2. Tomorrow’s Sky
  3. Divine Emotion
  4. Hiding From Tomorrow
  5. A Troubled Mind
  6. My Only Escape
  7. Years of Suspicion
  8. Inquisition
  9. Instinct
  10. I Ran

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