Review: IX by Host is New Darkwave at Its Apex


Let me say that when I first read that two members of Paradise Lost were starting a new project, I was quite intrigued. I was thinking that we were in line for something a bit akin to traditional death and doom, but with a bit of subtly different twist. Imagine my surprise when I put on the new record and started getting immediate flashbacks to my youth whilst living in New York in the glory of the early 1990s goth heyday.

IX is like something you might have heard at Alchemy at the famed 313 Bowery address (the building right next door to CBGB’s) circa 1991. Well, 313 Bowery is now a Patagonia next to a John Varvatos store, but I guess it could be worse, right?

Anyway, when I listen to IX, I feel like I’m back home – sixteen years old, ordering a snakebite at the bar at the Limelight and then unknowingly walking into a bathroom filled with pocket mirrors and razor blades.

Host gives is just the right amount of sadness and gloom with the opener, “Wretched Soul.” It’s not over synthed or over produced. It’s definitely not “electronic” even though there are clearly electro sounds and stylings. Rather, it’s more like dark rock with synth undertones. There’s also some guitar in terms of both acoustic and electric. What makes this song work, beyond the brilliant vocal performance is the recipe that Greg Mackintosh came up with. It’s a little bit of various ingredients with nothing that overwhelms. Think Joy Division or New Order.

“Tomorrow’s Sky” is my absolute favorite track on the record. It could be because Nick Holmes seems to channel David Gahan’s (Depeche Mode) baritone in the chorus or how he lifts his range up in the verse. I might also be that guitar solo that comes right out of 1987. This particular song is a slightly darker Depeche Mode at their best – meshed with well, Paradise Lost – and that’s really one of the reasons I’ve listened to it well over a hundred times. Oh yeah, the video is dead solid perfect to boot!

If there’s a particular track that really drives home the blend of the old and the new, it has to be “Hiding from Tomorrow” which takes me through a myriad of musical epochs I’ve been able to experience in my nearly five decades of listening to music. But it’s more than just nostalgia. It’s more than just taking me back to places where I’ve been. Host has a great deal of forward thinking composition in the song as well that makes it lend well to more modern listening tastes.

As if I needed another reason to gush over this record, they give us a Darkwave-style cover of “I Ran” by seminal 80’s New Wave stalwarts, A Flock of Seagulls. The reverb on the synth really puts a bleaker sound on the track, making it a bit more gloomy and melancholy. Speaking of reverb and effects, “My Only Escape” goes just a bit into Type O Negative territory with the filters they use on the synthesizer as well as the progressions on the guitar.

This is record for for those of us who remember those magical nights at the clubs and for those who’ve just gained an appreciation for the resurgence in genre and the sounds. There’s a lot to really love here and a lot of sounds to discover.

IX will be released on February 24 via Nuclear Blast, though you can preorder your copy today.

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