Review Summary: Despite being one of the forerunners of the genre, their debut album leaves a lot of room for improvement.
Paradise Lost are considered one of the originators of the modern doom sound and also one of the forerunners of the doom genre in general, and deservedly so. When they released their debut album in 1990 there was nothing that really sounded similar. In fact, it would be another two years before either My Dying Bride
released their first albums and really set the standard for what good doom could be. With that in mind it’s easier to understand why people may have thought this album was phenomenal at the time, but hindsight has proven otherwise. While you have to give credit to them for helping to define a genre, this album really sounds more like a death metal band without the chops and too lazy to play fast.
If you remove nostalgia and “reverence for the classics” then the only thing you’re left with is a raw slab of slow to mid-paced, underdeveloped metal that just so happens to incorporate the slightest bit of gothic atmosphere and melody. The album begins with one of the worst trends in metal; the throw-away intro track which through its use of droning noise sets the low standard that the rest of the songs will achieve with reckless enthusiasm. From the opening unremarkable ‘evil’ guitar melody on “Deadly Inner Sense” to the closing moments of the last forgettable, plodding riffs of “Internal Torment II” there is really very little in the way of redeeming factors in this album. Instead we’re treated to a series of sluggish, monotonous riffs with moments of silence every few minutes to signify that the band wants to make you believe they’ve moved on to a different song even though one is barely identifiable from the next.
As I mentioned earlier the riffs are all the same basic power chord progressions reused with subtle differences throughout the entire album. If the riffs were any good then that might not be such a bad thing but not only are they generic and forgettable, but they also lack any power or identity. Any fan of doom knows that often times the riffs are basic and slightly generic (especially in funeral doom), but the rest of the musical ideas are supposed to mask the lack of quality riffs and suck the listener into the music anyway, but again, Paradise Lost fail at this too. The wonderfully morose melodies found all over their gem, Icon
, are almost no where to be found here and when they are they’re underdeveloped, do very little to compliment the song and feel almost like an afterthought. What’s worse is that other then the deficient riffs there is nothing other then the occasional sound effect to help these songs out of their slump.
The only element that does help to prop up these songs in any way at all is the vocals of Nick Holmes. His guttural death metal style is perfect for the raw sound presented on this album. In fact, it is often his multi-faceted death vocals that keep the songs from becoming redundant to the point that they’re entirely unlistenable. It is Nick’s voice that presents a lot of the power and heaviness attributed to this album, and it is his vocals that set any kind of atmosphere at all (barring the rare instance when they get it right musically). It is also his dark lyrics that set the standard for all future doom releases as he at least got that right the first time around.
I like Paradise Lost and I really do think they helped set the standard for the doom genre on their next few albums, but this one was definitely more of a stumble instead of the quick start that bands like Anathema and My Dying Bride pulled off a few years later. Unfortunately, except for the sake of nostalgia, there is very little to redeem this release. It is true that songs like “Breeding Fear” with its female vocals helped establish a stereotypical element that runs rampant these days, and the dark lyrics combined with the very rawest of gothic undertones helped create the basis for the genre, but is that enough to force yourself to listen to this? If you’re curious about the origins of the genre then, by all means, give this a try but for anyone just looking for a good, older doom album you need to set your sights a little later into the nineties.