Paradise Lost is one of those bands that you could say suffers from what one might call "Metallica syndrome." While their first albums were revered heavily as innovators of death/doom, Nick Holmes began abandoning his growl for a more Hetfield-esque bellow, combined with more melodic moments. They crossed the murky seep of My Dying Bride with the gothic rock a la Sisters of Mercy, leaning far more towards the latter style on later album.
This album, Draconian Times, however, falls right in the middle, and is an excellent blend of both styles on offer. While the riffs are heavy and churning (albeit not as chugga-chugga as before), the band remains melodic and instead of going on sprawling 10-minute excercises in pointless noodling, the band keeps things short and sweet. Song lenghts average around four minutes, which make the album pretty accessible without being ridiculously overblown and long.
Despite that, the album's feel of doom and gloom is retained. In this scene, it has always been mandatory that a band's sound remains depressing and melancholy no matter how loud the guitars chug, or how loud the grunts sound. Paradise Lost hit that atmosphere square on the nose on this release. Songs like the amazing "Hallowed Land" combine eerie piano tinkling with slow, burning guitars and restrained lead guitar melodies, drowning you in a world of misery and sorrow.
Mr. Holmes's Hetfield-aping vocals enhance the whole feeling, although he comes over more as aggressive than sad, he still sounds quite melancholy. His voice is powerful enough to carry the songs to an end; in fact, his voice is pretty much an asset for the band as the band thrives on the slow and doomy guitars with Holmes' introspective lyrics about the fading reality of life and his world.
Unfortunately music like this ineffably falls into repetition somewhere. The band were clever enough to keep the play length short enough to avoid too much of filler, but the album can seem samey at times and it will feel like you've heard it all before sometime. The depressing feel that the album puts across isn't changed in any way by it, although the tempo sometimes varies from slow to a little more midtempo (such as Once Solemn and The Last Time.)
Paradise Lost therefore offer us one of the most genuine platters of gothic/doom metal of the 90s. A blueprint for many bands in the style to follow, this is a commendable effort from one of the innovators of this particular style of metal, and although the band will inevitably sound bland at some point, remember that this is mood music and not meant to be whored 24/7. As long as you don't play this album too much, you'll realise that this is pretty much the best the style has to give.