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In the event that a band drastically change their musical style over the course of their career, it is very likely indeed that one of their albums will in retrospect be thought of as the one that best encompasses this transition. We all should know how constant and fast the change was for Paradise Lost – it is precisely because of this, that ‘Shades of God’ is far from being a clear “transition album”. It has remarkably few obvious similarities with either its predecessor ‘Gothic’ or the follow-up ‘Icon’. The style and quality found here are nowhere to be heard on any of the band’s other works; this is an outstanding release.
On ‘Gothic’, the band had adopted an unusually strict distinction between rhythm and lead guitars as opposed to the debut, which focused more on two-guitar harmony lines and unison riffage. The style had, however, not yet had the time to fully develop, and was kept simple – possibly in order to keep things “under control”, so to speak. Here, the two guitars work together to weave patterns of melody and heaviness that are close to perfect; one could say that they had now learned how to utilize the lead guitar to its full potential. As a result, the songs have grown longer, more epic in nature, so that the riffs and melodies now have a chance to build deeper, more varied atmospheres. The guitar parts are simply better this time around, giving the listener plenty of things to follow and notice on repeated listens, which makes this album a definite grower when compared to the instant accessibility of ‘Gothic’. In particular, the guitar solos have turned into a key element; lengthy, melodic and relatively simple, they sound much like a second vocalist, really. And the songs have not only grown in duration, their structures have become original and unpredictable – some might say patchy, as a negative comment, but I would rather call them more interesting than before. Other things have changed, too: the female vocals that helped define gothic metal are now almost entirely gone, only appearing on ‘As I Die’; Holmes’ deep growl has become a “cleaner”, higher yell that, while not as powerful as before, sounds anguished and sad, fitting the music very well indeed.
There are no stand-out tracks on the album at all. Instead, there are stand-out parts of tracks, thanks to the creative songwriting. These include the soft acoustic guitar on ‘Daylight Torn’, the lead melody underneath the vocals in the chorus of ‘Pity the Sadness’, the unexpected triplet feel of ‘Mortals Watch the Day’, as well as countless others. Granted, ‘As I Die’ IS the obvious hit single, but even so is not any better than the other songs – in fact, I would name it the album’s weakest moment. To be quite honest, I have some serious problems thinking of these tracks as “songs” in the normal sense of the word. This as an extraordinary release, because the individual song parts (movements, one could say) are by far more important than any of the full songs. Most people would find this strange and unfitting – after all, we are talking about “popular music” of some sort – but to my ears at least, the entire idea of “songs” disappears more or less completely with this album. Even though there are verses and choruses, intros and bridges like anywhere else, they are not something you need to expect; the music is great, therefore the structure becomes meaningless.
Only very few things on ‘Shades of God’ make me raise my eyebrows. These are tiny details, of the kind that make you feel uneasy for a second or two but are soon forgotten. There is the case of unison guitars that, on occasion, play an astoundingly simple riff – from a musician’s point of view, this is strange. It’s almost like there shouldn’t be a second guitarist. Maybe (lead guitarist / songwriter) Mackintosh wipes the sweat off his forehead and takes a sip of water during these parts when performing live? What a clever man, in that case. At times, it is also a little too obvious that the music has been written by a guitarist. The solos, while of superb quality in general, can feel overdone in the sense that some of them are too long for their actual content, starting to feel like pointless noodling. My main complaint, however, is the drummer. Matthew Archer never was a “real” drummer – and he has said so himself. He’s struggling to keep up with the others, when of course it should be the drums that set the pace. It’s a literal wonder how he can pull off the up-beat parts of ‘Pity the Sadness’, for example – and even those don’t verge beyond common heavy rock in terms of speed. The beats sound lazy, giving the impression that he’s restraining the band rather than working with the other members. Having said that, it must be pointed out that I didn’t notice any of it before becoming a musician myself – I suppose that a “normal” listener should have no strong objections.
As far as I’m concerned, Paradise Lost went all downhill after this album. ‘Icon’ still had its moments, but the magic just wasn’t there anymore – to me, that one was a huge letdown back in the day. Their more recent output does not even deserve a mention. On ‘Shades of God’, they were at their creative peak – not bothering with common standards and making music that has aged astonishingly well, if at all. I find it very strange that this style has apparently not inspired too many imitators. Perhaps it’s because there is no imaginable way to do it better, so why even try. In short, this is one of the best metal albums ever, and if you’re not familiar with it by now, you should be ashamed.
Paradise Lost have never been strangers change and this album is another fine example of this. This is an intense listen that shows band shifting gears once again refining their style and furthering their already original sound.
This is an awkward release that depending on ones mood is either brilliant or boring. This was the departure album featuring their best production to date yet lessoning the more deathly vocals. This also has the most solos and diverse song writing and is arguably the bands Doomiest release too.
The guitars are tight and heavy. This is the bands crunchiest offering to date. The leads are haunting and mesmerizing while the solos are soaring and epic. There is a mix of shred and more laid back Rock in the solos. The guitar playing is also a step up from 'Gothic' and the songs more thought out. The guitars are also tuned to 'D' from here through 'Draconian Times'.
The bass follows the guitars but adds bits of flare here and there. The drums are more or less standard for the band/style. The band sound as is if they were finding themselves musically on this recording. The chord structures and patterns are original and different. There is a dark somewhat groove oriented feel to many of the songs. The vocals are perhaps Nick's best as they are more natural and flow well with the songs. There is a greater diversity between mid and high unlike on the prior records.
This is the definition of a "need to be in the mood" release. Unlike the bands other releases this one isn't one you can simply just pop in your CD player and rock out too. This album gave us some of the bands best songs in 'Mortals Watch the Day', 'Pity the Sadness' and 'When I die'. This is recommended to fans and Doomsters above all else.
Paradise Lost really got their act together for once. Surprisingly, "Shades of God" is considered to be the album "inbetween two masterpieces" and largely ignored. I don't see why. It's the perfect transition of 65% "Gothic", 15% "Icon" and 20% Thrash Metal. Yes, there are quite a few thrash riffs on here and they actually fit VERY well.
"Shades of God" has many of Gregor Mackintosh's trademark melodic lead guitar riffing, but there's also some less-melodic and more aggressive lead attack here, rather unusual for Gregor's style. Again, they fit surprisingly well.
Even though there are SOME hints of their future sound on "Icon" in here, most of the compositions displayed on "Shades of God" are of a very aggressive and raw nature. The mentioned hint sof their future sound are only audible in Nick's vocal style, which isn't guttural or even very deep anymore. I guess it would also fit to a nice thrash metal band. Also, in terms of atmosphere and feeling, this album is also superior to any other Paradise Lost release.
The album was mostly not too well-received and I still can't see why. I don't see huge experimentation processes going on. Sure, it is different to "Gothic" but it definitely has it's trademarks and foundations. There's just one song which sounds rather different in parts and that one is "As I Die". It's a bit softer than the rest, has more clean vocal usage as well as short whispered verses. Another slight hint to their future style. No surprise, it's also the most well known song from this album.
As I already mentioned in my "Gothic" review, I don't think that Paradise Lost has ever released a masterpiece, but "Shades of God" comes very close. It has consistent, memorable songs, some of the best leads and for once, the rhythm guitars are not "just there", they are fully developed and add a lot to the album.
I recommend "Shades of God" to any fan of the Doom metal genre. It's my favourite Paradise Lost album and maybe one of you will finally agree with me.
Highlights: Mortals Watch the Day, Daylight Torn, No Forgiveness, Pity the Sadness
Shades of God can be best described as the crossover album between the doom/death oriented Gothic and the heavy/doom metal oriented Icon without the harsh vocals. Therefore combining heavier/almost thrash metal aspects at times with a small amount of their older death elements. Make no mistake that is not an extreme album though. This is a transition creates a merging of different sounds with Nick Holmes experimenting with cleaner vocal approaches and the music taking melodic turns you would have never seen coming from Gothic while still retaining its potent heavy edge from Gothic. Gregor's leads are still great but this album lacks what other Paradise Lost metal albums have offered. Perhaps it is the contrast and added experimentation. Still great and too often overlooked Paradise Lost here.
This album has the potential of alienating lots of fans because it maintains that harsh edge of Gothic and more accessible qualities of Icon at times but is a shame because this music could appeal to a variety of different fans of metal. The production on this album is not that great either, which is a bit worse with Shades of God because this album doesn't have enough standout songs to make up for poorer production like Gothic. That is the main reason for the lower rating is that there is a lack of excellent material. Mostly just solid Paradise Lost. Not the first Paradise Lost album I'd recommend, but to any metal fan interested in hearing solid metal music, this album shouldn't disappoint!
Favorites: Mortals Watch The Day, Pity The Sadness, As I Die
I'm certainly not a very big fan of this band. Though their "Gothic" album is undeniably a very creative and masterful piece of work for its time, and the lead guitar is some of the best I've ever heard and perfect for doom (more doom bands need to have aching, sorrowful leads), nothing else Paradise Lost has ever done really moves me that much. "Shades of God" was the first album I obtained from the band, and indeed, was one of the first slightly underground metal albums I ever bought. I remember the day this came in (I had to order it) I was completely ill and alternately lying in bed and puking my guts out. I'd read plenty of reviews on the Internet, which wasn't exactly as over-abundant with information regarding metal bands as it is today (this was in 1996), that suggested that this record was full of sorrow, beautiful melody and passion. I'd heard My Dying Bride by then and I sort of imagined this would be something similar. Well, at the time I was extremely disappointed, and this only added to my miserable day. Because, you see, this is somewhat of an odd item in PL's mostly rather dubious catalogue.
This is honestly very close to traditional doom, and not remotely linked to death metal, with barely the slightest hint of gothic elements to be found. Gregor Macintosh's sublime, melancholic lead guitar that would be such a groundwork for bands like Katatonia to follow has, at this point, been replaced by bluesy, wah-wah soaked solos. There are loads of leads on this album, but they bare more resemblence to Black Sabbath or Trouble than anything else, and in 1996 I certainly wasn't ready for this. However, there is an abundance of great riffs to be found here, lots of nifty instrumental passages with a full-on sludgy groove, tempo changes and a pretty energetic feel. not all the songs here are plodding and slow, in fact, tracks like "Pity the Sadness" mostly just rock out, and the slower, more doomy numbers are usually tempered by faster breaks which one can definitely headbang to. Vocals are sort of nondescript..kind of a heavily reverbed shout that occasionally veers into both melodic and slightly growled territory, but they're nothing like the vocals on "Gothic" and more akin to the James Hetfield with constipation stuff on "Icon".
So why doesn't this album get a higher rating? Well, somehow Paradise Lost never really made their ways into the annals of trad doom, and the reason for this is that something just doesn't seem right or convincing about this. The riffs are there, the leads are there, the groove is there...yet some feeling is missing, and the album ends up dragging a bit toward the end. Finally there's the total weak point, the absolutely overrated pisser of a song "as I Die", which sounds like it could have been on "Icon" only it's not even as good as most of the songs on that album. It's the only track which really brings to mind some of the band's embracing of more gothic stylings later on, and it sounds a bit like a failed experiment. Still, songs like "Daylight Torn" (probably my favourite), "Pity the Sadness" and "Mortals Watch the Day", along with most of the first 3/4 of the album, are really worth something if you appreciate the traditional doom bands. Fans of Cathedral should really check this out as there are definitely a lot of similarities to that other (and far superior) British band.