Review Summary: This album is the first one in well over a decade that won’t have new fans scratching their heads wondering why this band is known as one of the forefathers of doom
When Paradise Lost released In Requiem
a few years ago, most fans probably assumed that things were as good as they were going to get. Sure, the album wasn’t exactly doom but it at least mixed the band’s poppy latter albums with a metallic approach that hadn’t really been heard since Draconian Times
. It turns out, though, that the band weren’t entirely finished transitioning back to their roots. Faith Divides Us - Death Unites Us
strips the last remnants of the bands poppier sound and replaces it with the oppressive doom of their first few releases. In the process they have easily created the darkest and heaviest album of their career – an album that pulls equally from Lost Paradise
and Draconian Times
while still retaining a modern sound and even delivering a few surprises.
Despite the fact that this album essentially completes the band’s conversion back to doom/metal (not doom metal), it’s not as different from In Requiem
as one might imagine. The riffs are still a hybrid of Shades of God
doom and Draconian Times
metal, and the melancholic leads still owe a lot to Icon
. The difference is that the heaviness and the doom facets have been moved to the forefront of the music. For fans, you might say that they brought back a bit of that dismal Lost Paradise
grittiness. In order to better complement this heavier approach, Nick Holmes has also reached deep into his past and returned with the near-death growls that he hasn’t used since 1992. He uses these vocals in addition to the Hetfield-ish metal shout and Dave Gahan influenced clean vocals that most current fans are probably more familiar with. This collection of influences has resulted in an album that builds its foundation on bleak, moderately paced doom riffs that retain a sense of dynamics by including quicker riffs that could be considered closer to traditional metal. Over this foundation is a near-constant influx of somber leads that are meant to be the centerpiece of each song.
For those that are relatively new to the band, it might be strange to think that the choruses are no longer the driving factor of each song but it’s true. That’s doesn’t mean that they abandoned that aspect of their sound only that the choruses are no longer as overtly poppy as they once had a tendency to be. As mentioned earlier, this has left the melancholic guitar leads to provide the memorable foundation of each song and they’re able to deliver. The only issue is that it’s obviously going to take longer for a song to “click” when it’s the music and not a vocal hook providing the majority of the memorable moments. Along with the reduced role of choruses, the band has also reduced the importance of the keyboards to the point that they’re hardly noticeable anymore. The unfortunate thing is that these keyboards and choruses had a lot to do with the quality behind In Requiem
, and it would have been nice to see them reprising their places on this album. Up to this point, it might seem as if the band have nothing new to offer, regardless of the music’s quality, but that’s simply not true. It turns out that they have included a few surprises within the album, but to discuss them here would be like including the end of a movie in the trailer.
Over the band’s twenty-year existence they have made a few different musical transitions – some smoother than others – and with this album they have now come full circle. Gone are almost any remnants of the band’s flirtation with a Depeche Mode style, and in their place is the bleak doom of the band’s early nineties beginnings. While a lot of references to previous albums and styles were made over the course of this review, the best part about this album is that it still sounds fresh. The band may be returning to their roots, but they’re filtering that sound through over two decades of songwriting experience and still aren’t afraid of adding a few surprises that no one will see coming (listen to “Frailty” for one of the biggest surprises). In the process they have returned with an album that defines their original sound without sounding dated or uninspired.