Album Review – Paradise Lost “Tragic Idol”
by Nicholas Holmes
The number “13” has long been thought of as representing bad luck, but in this case that proves not be. Yorkshire doom legends Paradise Lost have produced a thirteenth album that should satisfy long-time fans and hopefully bring onboard new ones too. The five-piece have experimented with electronica and an almost commercial hard rock-type sound at some points in their career, but the trend more recently has been toward the classic sound of the early to mid-90s, when “Shades of God”, “Icon” and “Draconian Times” helped define a genre. Some years ago, Paradise Lost were labelled by some as “the British Metallica”, and as the US mega-band attempted with 2008's “Death Magnetic”, “Tragic Idol” represents a back-to-basics approach. It is the sound of a band who know what they do best.
The album opens with a characteristic Gregor MacKintosh mournful guitar melody, while a haunting piano plays behind. As the track builds, vocalist Nick Holmes roars “Love fails today! Love fails today!” No tidings of joy here. The song progresses as a slow, almost hypnotic grind and it really does evoke the spirit of the band's early 90s era.
The slow grind continues into the start of “Crucify” before a stomping pace takes over driven by Adrian Erlandsson's drumming. Holmes' lyrics, as with most of the album, deal with the themes of honesty, repentance and death – the opening line of this track says exactly that. Then there is effectively a ballad. Another emotive guitar line leads into the clean sung “Fear of Impending Hell”, supported by Steve Edmondson's bass guitar. It builds to a chorus where the Metallica comparisons spring to mind vocally. There are some almost Pink Floyd-ian flourishes and it makes for a very atmospheric sound.
The Holmes roar is back and the tempo picks up again for “Honesty In Death”, which crunches along and builds like some of the best tracks of the “Icon” times. In fact, this song would not sound out of place on that album. “Theories From Another World” is quite different. Musically it crosses industrial style with thrash at the intro, before breaking into a galloping speed while still displaying the trademark PL guitar melodies. Lyrically it also a departure from the rest of the album, seemingly a stab at the shallowness of materialism.
“In This We Dwell” almost sounds like Slayer played at 33rpm. The guitar lines, the pummelling riffs and beat and even Holmes' vocals and lyrics have striking similarities to the Californian quartet. That is certainly no bad thing. The following, “To The Darkness”, picks up the pace again and has a looser, almost rock and roll vibe. Once again the words talk of the heavier side of life. And death. So while the the music may be more upbeat, the same melancholic mood prevails. This is absolutely clear when the slower section is capped with Holmes growling, “the darkest days will seem so clear! And now it's your turn!” The track then returns to the faster speed, with Edmondson's bass and Aaron Aedy's rhythm guitar cantering along to the end.
The title track has a gentle intro before kicking into a traditional-style PL chugger. It is particularly notable for Holmes's vocal's, ranging from a clean baritone to multi-tracked where he harmonises with himself. Overall the track could draw lazy comparisons with the late great Peter Steele and Type O Negative, but Paradise Lost were contemporaries of both. “Worth Fighting For” is in a similar atmospheric feel to its predecessor, but driven by clattering drum rhythms from Adrian Erlandsson.
Appropriately titled closer “The Glorious End” is another almost ballad-like song. More melancholic melodies support Holmes' final lament on this occasion, and it rounds off the album well. He seems to hit out at people who find solace in religion at the last moment, “faithless father, now at the end I pretend I can see!”, while there is still time for an impressive guitar solo from Mackintosh.
Strong of melody, heavy of riff and moody of lyric, Paradise Lost have taken all the ingredients from their best previous work, blended and mixed them up to produce a fine platter that is testament to the motto, “if it ain't broke, don't fix it”.
“Tragic Idol” is released via Century Media on April 23rd
Paradise Lost official website: http://www.paradiselost.co.uk/
Century Media: http://www.centurymedia.com/
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