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I shit you not: one day Gregor Mackintosh's curiosity finally got the better of him and he decided to ask Nick Holmes what 'Enchantment' was about, to which Holmes replied, "Oh, it's about wanking." I think that's something to alter if anyone out there has a time machine and a few spare minutes.
That little story isn't really relevant to the quality of 'Draconian Times' but it does give a clear idea of what one expects from a Paradise Lost album - not a song about wanking. And yet one can see how that theme would have been approached by PL at various stages of their career: 5 years earlier, it would have been about anger and inhumanity; 4 years earlier, it would have been about guilt and self-denial; 3 years earlier, about religion and sin; 2 years earlier, about loneliness and judgment. In 1995, it was shadowy and indefinite, the lyrics very open and symbolic, still dark, but in a different way. Lest we forget, this was one of the albums that wrote the template for gothic metal, yet out of those first five PL albums, it seems to have the least distinct character. Sure, it was another step closer to the mainstream, but what exactly went on here?
For starters, these songs live and die with the performances. The writing style is a lot more conventional than anything before 'Icon' (verses and choruses and such) and the songs are led by the lyrics, so musical experimentation is kept to a minimum. Mackintosh, who is usually the one to provide the distinctive PL elements, is not as prominent on lead guitar as he had been to this point, though he still spends more time in the foreground than he would on the later gothic rock and synth rock material. As always, his solos are a high point of each song and these are mostly exuberant, but his unique melodies are rather muted, only really impacting on 'Shadowkings', 'Shades of God', 'Elusive Cure', and 'Jaded'. Indeed, these are the only songs that would have fitted snugly onto 'Icon', with its doomier leanings and more innovative structures. In fact 'Jaded', which is my personal favourite behind 'Yearn for Change', bears similarities to 'Joys of the Emptiness' because of its trudging lead melody that builds so inevitably into Holmes declarative 'The feeling can't avoid you'.
Therefore, even if PL don't necessarily have a signature style (and I wouldn't say they really developed one until very recently, since the last three releases all seem to plough a similar furrow), they do have a typical sound or a consistent mood. 'Draconian Times' was the first PL album to really play with that sound, and it's easy to see that experimentation led to some anomalies, which are evident on the first five tracks of the album. The piano intro and brooding verse/anthemic chorus arrangement of 'Enchantment' is a logical extension of the gothic style that started to emerge on 'Icon'. 'Hallowed Land' and 'Forever Failure' follow the formula, using slightly simplified (though still heavy) riffing styles and trudging drums to create a fairly miserable atmosphere. The comparison to a chronically depressed 'Black Album'-era Metallica (thrash amnesia and all) is still pertinent here, which perhaps leads to the more conventional solos that are aimed more at stadiums than guts. This all works pretty well, but one expects more from PL than pretty good songs.
'The Last Time' and 'Once Solemn' are the big surprises on 'Draconian Times'. They are both less riff-based than anything else here (and, compared to 'Shades of God' and 'Icon', this is not a very riff-based album), focusing more on open chord strumming, Holmes' vocals, and their fast(er) pace. 'Once Solemn' honestly reminded me of a pop punk band like Green Day when I first heard it, because those straight eights that open the song are so jarring for a slow, melancholy band like PL. Neither song is truly dreadful, but they don't play to the band's strengths. 'Yearn for Change' is also an experiment with a more accessible style, but its clean intro is catchy as hell, it has a great change of pace, Holmes' vocals are strong and purposeful, and there is a suitably PL-flavoured verse towards the end.
Like Mackintosh's ill-advised question about 'Enchantment', 'Draconian Times' seems to be surrounded by an aura of the sacred (it was arguably PL's last groundbreaking album and brought their greatest success), but upon closer inspection, there is something about it that - if not generic and populist - is common and a little underwhelming.
And yes that isn't the first time you have seen the comparison for UK's doomsters, but it's the truth. In fact I couldn't think of any other leading Goth band that would come closer to said such opinion, because overtime and the more I listen to this album (I am relatively a newcomer to the band, but for the past couple of years....superb), it just hardens into a kidney stone-like fact.
"Draconian Times" is Paradise Lost's most recognized and successful album and for good reason, they managed to take a genre of Metal that didn't much recognition until the mid-90's and take it to the next level. Doom metal and more specifically goth metal itself didn't exist that much in the 80's....outside of say Candlemass and Celtic Frost just barely touching upon the basics of the genre, and they did so with style, but nobody had done it like Paradise Lost. Paradise Lost went from pure grimly doom/death metal of their early days to, and I hate to say this, a teenage-like angst by "Draconian Times." It's not bad. Not bad at all. In fact it works. I mean, I'm fairly certain it wouldn't have turned out any other way. Besides could you see something like "Rotting Misery" have such a mainstream impact on metal? Oh I'm sure that did to a certain extent, but "Draconian Times" shows a ragtag group of gloom-ridden teens basically grow into moody and melodramatic/sarcastic adults: in turn they went Goth. Not my personal choice in terms of progression, but it works for them. Hell, probably made more money for them than I will make in the next 10 years, haha.
While on the subject of the overly-Goth influence of The Sisters of Mercy, I can pick-up traces of other Goth influences here and there; the Fields of Nephilim-like artwork, the limp wrist-like teenage romanticism of The Smiths...the basics. But again, this is nothing more than The Sisters of Mercy with guitars. Question: Ever listened to TSOM's "Floodland"...replace the drum machine, and put a Black album-era James Hetfield in there and that's all it is. I know I'm an just saying the same thing over and over again, but again when you look at the albums leading up to this, it's the only thing that makes sense. Even Nick Holmes has the same curly-like anglo-saxon like hair and "WOAH!" "YEAH!" of one of Metal's leading front men. And in all honesty, I prefer it to be like that. Not that I am being biased here or some Metallica fanboi, but it just works for him. Plus he sounds like TSOM front man grew a pair of balls and REALLY started bellowing those morose notes out. Guitarists Gregor Mackintosh and Aaron Aedy switch from infectious pop melodies to some really hard-hitting, yet simplistic doom-ala Candlemass/Celtic Frost earth shakers. The rest of the band backs them up with a very skeletal structure that is fleshed out so very easily over the course of the entire album.
"Draconian Times" starts out with a somber-sounding piano ala "1959"-SOM style and then goes straight into into a doomy-like breakdown with Nick Holmes bellowing out "Ooooooooooh like a fever, burning inside of me!" Excellent way to start off an album, in a Danzig-like quality. "Hallowed Land" is personally my favorite song on here and for good reason; the lead guitar work of Gregor Mackintosh makes this an epic fist-banger. "The Last Time" goes back into SOM territory again. This is probably their most blatant attempt at making light of the Goth sound with guitars for a huge 'hit." Then the big one kicks in...."Forever Failure"...I'll be honest, the first time I heard this, good god: DOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOM!!!! Nick Holmes doesn't bellow here, he tells you how fucking worthless you/he/whoever feels. Imagine someone just completely sucking at life, and not even a person who makes any attempts, just a really miserable bastard. Plus when you have samples of Charles Manson speaking about how shitty life can be, it's an extremely bleak fucking song. I know the English aren't the most cheerful of people out there, but fuck me man. Take your Zoloft! After that depressing-induced song comes the way more upbeat and angrier "Once Solemn." "Shadowkings" is the turning point in the album where you know the best half was the first but there are still more treasures to unlock. Kinda like the intermission. "Elusive Cure" is one song that should have been the leading single off this album. Again, Gregor just lets his fingers hit those wailing, somber melodies. This is one of the better cuts off the album, and sadly almost overlooked. "Yearn For Change" continues the song and picks the mood up a notch. "Shades of God" has a catchy "woah woah woah" lead that doesn't sound too far from a band like Soundgarden. No, this isn't grunge, but I'm sure if you had played this for grunge fans in the 90's, they probably wouldn't know the difference. The last three songs are more or less identical, which is what keeps this album from being given a full 100%. Trust me I would love to, but the first 3/4ths of this album has taken you through such a clinically depressing-like roller-coaster, you almost feel completely burnt-out by "Shades of God." Besides the last 3 songs, my copy of "Draconian Times" came with 2 bonus tracks; a cover of The Smiths' "How Soon is Now" and an original called "Fear". Again, points are deducted from The Smiths because I personally despise Morrissey. I fucking loathe the bastard. I won't go into how much I feel rage towards that whiny mook, but even the cover....it's good...just feels so out of place. I can understand SOM, and Fields Of Nephilim-worship, but Morrissey? Might as well have tried to do a Christian Death cover. But the next song "Fear" completely makes you forget that. "Fear" is the most upbeat song on "Draconian Times" with it's Post-Punk-like swinging drum beats, scorching guitar leads and Nick Holmes going into hypo-manic-like mode. "Fear" reminds me a lot of the Irish band Therapy? (for those who remember that band) so that's always good.
So how do I wrap this album review up? I would say if you are a newcomer to the band; definitely start here because this is their creative peak between their older material and their not-so-favorable newer style. Even though recently their last two albums have gone back to their original style of their older material, it's all just more of a nostalgia trip. There's enough doom and gloom here to almost combat with the previous 2 albums and enough progression that surpasses the rest of their discography. Not forgetting a certain point about this album; even for the time period that this came out in.....1995....I do remember that was the beginning of the end of the golden era of Metal after the last resporating breath between 1992-1994 when the universe saw the flames of the north lay waste to the past once and for all. Alongside Fear Factory, and At the Gates...Paradise Lost put their feet of solidification in mid-90's Metal when things changed not for the better or worst, but when things seem to yearn for a change.
‘You must feel frustration…’ I do feel frustration!
‘All alone...all alone... can't be real’ I am alone and it’s real!
‘When I see your frown, it becomes my frown…’ I am frowning! Paradise Lost feels my pain!
…And with Draconian Times they successfully tapped into every strain of teenage angst in my body with the über commercial approach of Metallica’s eponymous album mixed with teenage gothic lyricisms that were scribbled on the inside sleeve of an Anne Rice novel. What was abrasive and inaccessible in the band’s earlier albums was all but wiped away and it’s pretty clear that these lads wanted enough money to leave Halifax (which is inexplicably the capital of doom/death, it’s grim oop north, apparently). How dare they!? Presenting obviously poppy material for want of mine and Morticia’s hard earned cash! How am I to impose non-existent levels of pompous analogies and philosophical meaning on such a, oh lordy, pop record? All I want to do is sit and read my thesaurus in peace and Paradise Lost insist on piping in pop music!
Paradise Lost clearly lent their ears to Metallica’s approach to metal and their focus on more ‘real’ themes than, say, fairies wearing boots (I’d reckon the reality of these sort of situations is completely dependant on your mindset, but I digress). The logic behind this being that it is far more important and people are less likely to laugh at you. But being myself, I find Paradise Lost’s po-faced swan-around-in-Victorian-garb severity completely hilarious. It’s self-assured in its own importance and confident that these lyrical themes are deep and meaningful. It’s something gothic music often falls prey to and their superior contemporaries; Type O Negative successfully ripped this to shreds with their bleak and completely self-effacing humour. Sure, Joe Public is more likely to giggle in Ronnie James Dio’s little medieval-y outfits but I can wholeheartedly assure you that Paradise Lost is just as silly.
But regardless of my mandatory “this is silly because of x and y”, I have to say this is a finely crafted piece of misery-heavy melancholy and if you’re going to aim for that “that’s the reason wherefore I hate mum and dad” demographic this is far preferable to certain other movements that were prominent in the nineties. I mean this thing has guitar solos and something of an atmosphere – be it one of typically windswept gothic fashion, but it’s pleasant – and vocals that don’t scream of a childhood wrought with absentee fathers. Nicely done in all.
Combined with big – and perhaps a little too abrasive in places – vocals, arcane guitar melodies, a drummer who sounds fresh out of Music College and a grandiose production that does have some subtlety unlike the aforementioned Metallica album, Paradise Lost have every right to occupy a space in the record collection of every self-loathing teen. Songs like ‘Hallowed Land’ have anthem written all other them and better still I can point to bits that remind me of actual heavy metal, like stuff that actually sings about demons and Mothra. Gregor Mackintosh pulls out some scintillating lead work and the rhythmic wah-wah is – intentionally or not – reminiscent of Dave Chandler’s style. I do find songs like ‘Forever Failure’ a touch overbearing and even slightly contrived, but some of this is stuff is really good, especially if you’re in the right mindset. I think I’m over my teenage angst phase but Draconian Times makes me look back over it in a nostalgic mist and at times I like to dwell on that period when I’d like girls but certainly not speak to them, heaven forbade that!
Weirdly enough, I get a Black Sabbath vibe in ‘Yearn For Change’, this wouldn’t ordinarily be weird except that it’s not strictly seventies Sabbath but rather Headless Cross era. Listen to that solo after the intro particularly in the unison bends; the tone is very similar to Iommi’s in 1989 – mysterious and colourful but not the most natural sound. This is strange; I’m never shocked by bands of this era digging up a bit of Ozzy era Sabbath, but consider that Sabbath’s late eighties output ranks amongst the music world’s least fashionable creatures. Otherwise the song certainly has a nice atmospheric vibe to it, the chorus is as anthemic as ever and I happen to be a sucker for the chiming guitars stuff that underlies most of the song. The vocal harmonies have a near Gregorian touch about them and thankfully, it’s not overdone or out of place.
Draconian Times really is a classy package in all, a happy medium between The Sisters of Mercy and Metallica. I suppose this would tie in quite nicely with my growing penchant for gothic music; as Dave Vanian is sexy * note to self: remember to change this to Patricia Morrison so not to look homosexual on the internet*. Nick Holmes, however, is not.
Few albums are able to define an artist as well as “Draconian Times” does for Paradise Lost. This album represents the peak of the band’s creativity as well as its mastery of gothic metal. While their first three albums were cornerstones of the doom metal genre it was only until their foray into gothic metal (“Icon”) where their songwriting and vision really began to expand. “Draconian Times” finds Paradise Lost finally ascending the throne of the Doom/Gothic empire, along with fellow British doom band My Dying Bride.
The brilliance of this album lies in its ability to please die-hard metal fans as well as casual listeners. The riffs are heavy, but not unbearably crushing. Vocalist Nick Holmes abandons the typical death growl once and for all, proving that he has a clean (but not too clean) vocal delivery that would remain his bread and butter until present day. He, along with guitarists Gregor Mackintosh and Aaron Aedy, maintain a dark, depressive, yet surprisingly upbeat mood throughout the album ("Jaded" being the only exception, as every note in that song screams sadness). The music itself is simple yet effective, showing more proof of its ability to appeal to everyone. The musicians here don't display an overwhelming amount of skill, and they don't need to. In fact, at first listen it may sound as though the same song is being played over and over again. Repeated listens however, will reveal subtle yet powerful differences. Whether it's the melancholy beauty of songs like "Elusive Cure" and "Yearn For Change", or the charging heaviness of "The Last Time" and "Once Solemn" (which maintain the same level of melody as the slower songs), this album has something for everyone.
"Draconian Times" is an album of powerful beauty that is made all the more impressive through its simple riffs, solos, and drum work. Unfortunately, this would be the last gothic-themed album until 2005's "Paradise Lost". This album has stood the test of time and was an unwavering milestone during the troubled and slightly confusing synthesizer era. While "Icon" may have introduced the world to the new gothic sound, it was "Draconian Times" where it took a very strong foothold in the minds of metal fans and in the music community as a whole.
How anyone can consider this band "Gothic" up to this point is quite befuddling. This album (their second to last Metal release until 'Symbol of Life') is pure Doom Metal plain and simple.
The production is crisp and the song writing is nothing short of brilliant. Nick has once again lessoned the "deathly" aspect of his vocals, going for (arguably) a more Thrash oriented voice. It suites the music well and is offset periodically by a clean semi-sung/spoken parts.
The guitars (tuned to 'D') are higher sounding than on any of their previous efforts and are almost tinny at times. They are despair ridden and incredibly slow, and despite their "lighter" sound, this is still a fairly heavy recording. The trademarked melancholia is still as vibrant as ever within.
The bass sounds good but, as usual, doesn't do anything to amazing. This is also the first album to showcase the bands (then) new drummer Lee Morris. He plays and sounds excellent using all manner of unique drumming patterns on the entire release.
Some of the draw backs would be the lack of more pure Death Metal vocals and the higher sounding guitars. Some of the songs tend to drag towards the middle of the recording as well. This is also fairly radio friendly (not that, that’s necessarily a bad thing).
Over all, this is more or less a master piece of Pure, unadulterated Doom Metal and a worthy addition to any collection. Highly recommended.
Let’s begin by admitting I’ve never been a big Paradise Lost fan. Though remaining fully conscious of their influence on numerous doom or gothic acts, I always considered themselves as somewhat boring, be it with their early death/doom albums or with the kind of dark pop they’re now better known for. Draconian Times, like its famous predecessor Icon, belongs to what we could call Paradise Lost’s gothic era and, while it may constitute what Holmes, Mackintosh & al. have done best, it can’t completely avoid bearing its couple of letdowns as well.
True, Draconian Times isn’t very difficult to apprehend. Twelve short songs (only two are clocking at a bit more than 5 minutes), most of them being mid-tempo and based on an elementary verse-chorus pattern, exclusively clean vocals, a good amount of acoustic guitars and a touch of piano on a couple of tracks: this album could almost be considered as radio-friendly. In other words, this is the sort of release one instantly love or forever hate, nothing really intellectual to expect. However, in spite of its simplicity, it mysteriously remains quite moving and somehow puzzling. The pop music of the later works this definitely isn’t. The band for instance hasn’t abused of additional strings and orchestrations, apart from some discrete violins on the opening track. Nothing to cry about.
Furthermore, even if growls have definitely vanished into oblivion, Nick Holmes’s vocals still often show a slightly raspy effect that prevent them from falling into annoying pop-ish mellowness and ridicule. Granted, several over-the-top choruses are likely to make most of the listeners smile, but they sound more kitsch than truly mediocre. Indeed, while his highest notes aren’t always very pleasant to hear, Nick’s middle range on the other hand manages to sound very deep and emotional, in a good way, as could be expected on any goth-inspired release.
But if gothic tracks are globally fine, with their eerie acoustic guitars and haunting melodies, a bunch of faster tracks sound a bit more dubious – did we really need The Last Time and Once Solemn, two tunes the band hasn’t probably spent much time on? Sorry, but repeating something like “Hearts beating, hearts beating, hearts beating for the last time” ad infinitum in a rather vulgar tone will never lead to decent music. All the more than introducing different-sounding fast tracks right in the middle of an album dominated by slow to mid-paced tunes threatens the overall coherence of the work, which atmosphere is otherwise a model of constancy in melancholy. Not true depression, you know, as only genuine doom metal can achieve it, but the more subtle impression that something is going wrong, but you don’t exactly know what.
There aren’t truly outstanding tracks as, as said before, most of them are built on the same pattern and feature similar elements. Not that they’re totally undistinguishable, especially because of slight pace variations – and, of course, those damn catchy melodies – but when dealing with such albums each one’s preference is generally more subjective than ever. Once having eliminated The Last Time, Once Solemn as well as Forever Failure and its useless and annoying spoken parts, the nine remaining tracks are equally good. I might underline a lively, rock-ish tune like Yearn for Change, the far slower and plaintive Shades of God or the closing Jaded and its immortal chorus, and also the curious Hallowed Land which, who knows why, reminds me of Haven-era Dark Tranquillity. The worst is I haven’t understood yet how there could be any link between a gothic album from a famous British band and a keyboard-driven melodeath album from an equally famous Gothenburg act. Iffy, isn’t it?
Highlights: Hallowed Land, Yearn for Change, Shades of God, Jaded...
Draconian Times comes off as an excellent, inspired effort but just falls short of the previous breakthrough Icon. With Draconian Times, Paradise Lost has become closer to making more accessible, catchy tunes with the exception of Forever Failure but the thing is they still retain a decent amount of their patented metal sound from Icon. The production and sounds much cleaner, the rhythm guitars are still very solid, Gregor Mackintosh lead riffs are once again very impressive on many of the new songs. They have also added many more electric guitar parts which certainly give an added dimension to this album. Nick Holmes vocals( somewhat remniscent of James Hetfield) screams and more gothic tinged spoken vocal approaches are also considerably more melodic on this release.
Despite all these elements it would be rather absurd to refer to this glorious release as pop music just because of its flair for catchiness. I should make it quite clear despite Paradise Lost's newfound accessibility this is still a metal album. Its just not nearly as heavy as previous efforts like Lost Paradise or Gothic. One minor knock I have is Paradise Lost albums are continually rather weak at rhythm(bass/drums). This is probably because Gregor spends most of his times writing painfully good leads. It still sounds great, but could have been improved. The album starts fades towards a few "good" tracks on this album but most of the music on here is very well done.
This CD has a considerable amount of variety, from more upbeat, faster tempo songs like Once Solemn which could be a radio friendly metal anthem to Forever Failure, easily the most depressing and least accessible songs on the CD which ranges from sorrowful doom-ish sections to lighter heartfelt spoken tones. Bringing us to Hallowed Lands, a definite standout with some of Gregor's best lead guitar to date combined with the new cleaner Paradise Lost rhythm guitar crunch to Elusive Cure which experiments with some more accessible clean guitar tones. I would recommend this album to anyone either into heavy metal or even people who listen to more radio oriented music. Not saying this is a candidate to be the next Linkin Park, but this is a great album that could appeal to a very large audience. Favorite tracks : Hallowed Land, Forever Failure, Once Solemn, Jaded, (also check out the Smiths cover How Soon Is Now)
Yes, bands like these deserve the tag "pop metal"... while not overtly saccharine, Paradise Lost pen verse chorus verse tinged songs that are so maddeningly catchy, you'll probably claw your own eyes out. I know I did. Why do you think I'm ytpin lyk thsi.
Really, Draconian Times is a great, somber, hard rocking album. Given any exposure, I'm sure this album could appeal to a wide spectrum of music fans, and cross the great divide between metal and radio. The vocals are harsh, and tuneful, like Hetfield circa 92 or John Bush. This style appeals to me, and sets Paradise Lost apart from their wuss metal contemporaries. It gives them a kick of originality
"Once Solemn" is a footstomping, hand clapping, barn burner of a rock song... YOUR POWERS ELECTRIFY ME. Guaranteed to have you singing along like a doofus come chorus 2. Enchantment and the last song flirt with goth, although the "goth metal" tag is fairly silly... once again, Draconian Times is closer to morose hard rock than anything else. Another plus... NO GAYBOARDS!
Anyway, my favorite songs are Once Solemn, I See Your Face, and Hallowed Land. If you crave well written in yo face metal, and you're a fan of Amorphis (whose latter day work is very PL influenced) or Sentenced, do investigate further.
THE FEELING CAN'T AVOID YOUUUU