Review Summary: The band that created Gothic metal in its most brilliant moment
Paradise Lost is in many ways an incredible band. In the beginning of their career they were part of the (British) doom/death metal triumvirate, which also included Anathema and My Dying Bride. Only one year after their debut, with the release of their second album, entitled “Gothic” they, single- handedly created the gothic metal genre. They wouldn’t stop there however. Paradise Lost didn’t find comfort in settling in one style, so they would go on and on experimenting, sometimes with excellent results, others not that successfully. The point is that this band became exemplary of an ever- evolving band. Most of all, PL should be remembered for two of their albums; “Icon” and “Draconian Times”.
“Icon” is their fourth album, preceded by “Shades of God”, the latter expanding in their gothic influenced (heavily influenced as a matter of fact) doom/death metal. “Shades of God” wasn’t something really special, but it established them as one of the best bands of the genre. Still, it was one of the rare cases throughout their career that PL would take no risks.
“Icon” marks a big departure from that previous album. While there is no denying that PL were still influenced by Celtic Frost (the use of power chords, female vocals and gothic atmospheres is very similar to that of “Into the Pandemonium”, although not as transparently as in previous albums, especially “Gothic”)in “Icon” there is an obvious respect for the likes of Metallica. Nick Holmes abandons his characteristic death grunt and adopts a style not unlike that of James Hetfield. Given that there were already parts in their previous albums where he sung in a clear, baritone, gothic style, this new direction added color and strength to his vocals and, as a result, to the songs. Greg Mackintosh and Aaron Aedy would further improve on their unique style, an excellent interplay between Aedy’ s crushing riffs and Mackintosh’s mournful, melodies. The riffs in particular are still doom-y but it was easy to see that they are much more powerful (check the intro to “Forging Sympathy” for example) than on previous albums. Still, more often than not, riffs are just a (perfect whatsoever) background for Greg’s trademark melodies, ever so moody and always very accurate. The band would not stop experimenting with strings and female voices, as well, in order to create dark, gloomy atmospheres. Such is the case with the magnificent “Christendom” or the terrifying closer “Deus Miserateur”.
More than anything, in “Icon” PL establish themselves as excellent songwriters. Simply put, if “Embers Fire” isn’t the best gothic metal song ever it’s because “True Belief” is. In the first one, Nick Holmes truly shines with his new found vocal style, but only because the guitars back him up so nicely. In the latter, everything seems to fit in just perfectly; from the melancholic intro to the memorable chorus, “True Belief” is an instant classic for the genre. Furthermore, in songs like “Remembrance”, “Weeping Words” and “Colossal Rains” PL offer us moments of brilliance that, with all the respect to every gothic metal band out there, were never to be topped (by any other band anyway).
Paradise Lost had been a very consistent band during the 90’s and at some point they nearly became a mainstream act, especially in Europe, as opposed to the US, where they are virtually unknown. This album has been highly influential to numerous bands, Lacuna Coil, Opeth and Katatonia to name a few. It is without any doubt one of the best metal albums of the 90’s. Its importance lays mainly in the fact that it managed to blend metal and gothic perfectly and still make it appealing to every metal fan at the same time. It can only be seen as a miracle that the band’s next effort, “Draconian Times” matched this one.