Host – IX

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Host is a new side-project band formed by the members of the British death doom metal giants Paradise Lost/ Nick Holmes (vocals) and Gregor Mackintosh (guitars). The debut full-length album 'IX' offers a dark electro mixture of Goth wave music. The in-depth take on the 80s gothic synth artfully portrays the unique sonic textures as well as the early nostalgia which has deepened through time. This is the first time where Nick Holmes and Gregor Mackintosh show their knack for playing a musical style that is not purely metal, but it’s all about the experience and the music speaks for itself. Therefore, 'IX' certainly delivers a beautiful fusion of synth-pop music and heavy guitars that have so much in common with bands like Depeche Mode, Sisters of Mercy and The Cure.

Host incorporates elements from eighties synth-pop reminiscent of that early great era of pop/rock music. The opening track ‘Wretched Soul’ emphasizes the charismatic vocals of Nick Holmes. The unfaltering refinement of dynamic sound fragments of the swelling orchestral & electronic music provides a chilling and compelling down-tempo that feels quite inspiring. The industrial textures on ‘Tomorrow’s Sky’ dominate between the gloomy vocals and the elegant acoustic guitar. Sonic hooks like the guitar solos recur with a beating drum machine and shift from a more industrial synth-wave approach to something that is perfectly chilling. The guitar hooks and the synth melodies pound out with the brooding dark vocals.

Certain songs like ‘Divine Emotion’ rise on multiple levels where the gradual modulation of the orchestration sets spacious details, adding the most opulent and elegant synth elements into the song texture. ‘IX’ delivers an instant classic to the cozy, atmospheric Goth synth canon in that it is beautifully cinematic and stylish in its unique composition. Although I would still compare Host to Paradise Lost’s middle-era gothic rock albums, out of the gloomy haze of the rocking guitar riffs on ‘Hiding From Tomorrow’ jelling with the jarring sound of the drum machine, the vocals come off like an early eighties pop/rock fashion.

The orchestral swells, the strident guitars and the gentle piano melodies juxtapose the gloomy elegance as the real magic of the inspired rhythm becomes much grander and rich. When these sonic compositions manifest themselves as the soul elements of the album, ‘A Troubled Mind’, then ventures into modern dub music eking out the orchestral quality of the music that elaborates on subtle shifts and arrangements. ‘My Only Escape’ gently expands into dark brooding electronic music that provides a hypnotic and breathtaking experience when suddenly the music explodes into a maelstrom of rocking sensational guitars by Gregor Mackintosh and becomes carried by the vigorous vocals of Nick Holmes.

The rhythm pattern of the synth and the piano paints a very gloomy backdrop to the beating drums, while ‘Years of Suspicion’ which is full of jarring shifts sounds like a bleak transition from the loop. This somehow gives the album a diverse touch of lush orchestral textures and harsh drum beats. The gentle monumental vocal lines in the opening moments of ‘Inquisition’ grip me by the neck and once the haunting synth waves slowly begin dropping in with the electro beats, the catchy chorus suddenly intensifies yielding to a beautiful dark melody. Though the song itself sounds like dark, downbeat melancholy, the vocals create an emotional backdrop. And while it’s clear that Gregor Macintosh and Nick Holmes have effortlessly crafted a refining approach to this genre of music, there is still a thin thread that can be linked to Paradise Lost.

You could easily find yourself immersed with the driving guitars and the programmed drum beats. In terms of quality Host takes a dark direction and the music simply echoes with hooks giving you goosebumps. The melancholy guitars together with the baritone vocals and the electronic synthesizer pulsating with the guitar washes are the key elements in ‘Instinct’. The atmospheric kick of the desolate industrial drums is quite catchy and deserves several listens, but this track truly starts rocking when the guitars and pounding drum machine kick in with such a sensational vibe.

IX’ is a very catchy album with multiple, complex textures and dark rock gothic themes, as you will find yourself sprawling on the ground with sedatives. Yet for all the musical focus, the album presents danceable rock riffs. The duo also provides ample variety: there is always an innovative, sonic pattern in each of the ten songs that subtly shifts in over the duration of forty-two minutes. Every time the synth becomes awash with propelling guitars, the tempo invites a sense of groove and excitation. The bass also provides a wall of sound. The slow buildup of the final track ‘I Ran’ is certainly guitar-oriented and atmospherically gloomy, but it also emphasizes the precursor’s effect of the drum machine.


  • Music / Songwriting 10/10
  • Vocals / Lyrics 10/10
  • Mix / Production 10/10
  • Artwork & Packaging 8/10
  • Originality 10/10

Host’s debut album ‘IX’ carries the nostalgic and haunting years, bringing a refreshing piece of synth gothic rock music that feels inspired by that bygone era called the eighties.

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