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Paradise Lost didn't take too long in following up their ultra modern 'Faith Divides Us - Death Unites Us' album, an album of questionable quality. So of course this album, the second in this newer chapter of theirs, had a much higher bar to reach. After all has been said and done did it reach its lofty goal? Tragically.
The second and most stylish of their logos made its welcomed comeback on this album replacing that stupid lowercase run-on logo they've been using forever. The music doesn't feel as forced as Faith Divides Us but it's not really as focused either. This album immediately drew favorable comparisons to Draconian Times. Why? The first song 'Solitary One' is a decidedly darker and heavier track that sounds like it could've been from said albums writing sessions but that's really it. Or possibly because of the hauntingly sparse piano work. Who knows. This song is however the best on the album and very false advertising considering what comes after. This song is everything you'd want in a doom song; slow music with minimalist instrumentation played to the background of horse vocals and hopeless intent, but the rest of the album is more directionless and less focused.
The other tracks are competent and well played but one can't shake the feeling that it's an attempt to combine their self-titled release with Faith Divides Us. Heavy modern songs with short lengths and catchy riffs. This is the bands first release since 'One Second' that isn't really a doom metal album. It's mostly a confused modern melodic metal album. There are moments of doom but mostly all you hear are the generic sounds of countless other current "extreme" metal bands. The production is excellent however.
The biggest drawback is Greg. His playing has gotten profoundly lazy. His so-called "solos" are predictable and all sound the same. The guitars sound massive however. That's a plus. Nick's voice was still improving too. Perhaps on par with Draconian at this point. The second biggest drawback is the lack of cohesion between songs. They don't gel as an album, and with titles like 'Crucify' and 'Fear of Impending Hell' the cliche factor is a bit high. (However the latter of those two is actually a pretty good song.)
This album also shows us a new side of Paradise that we've never seen before. Their positive side. 'Worth Fighting For' is almost something you'd expect to hear Judas Priest singing about not Paradise Lost. Yet they do and in doing so give us both a good song and another example as to why this album doesn't gel.
There are highlights and good songs here but over all this wasn't a stellar recording. Considering what's come since this albums release this album should be seen as a transitional release at best. In this one can easily discern the album titles origin. This truly is a tragic idol.
Paradise Lost. What does one think of when hearing this band? A once amazing doom/death metal band that turned to shit after their second album? A band full of surprises that nailed every style they played? For me it's neither, but I should say that I'm only into their metallic outputs. It's just something I feel the band does the best and most natural. Anyone familiar with their recent stylistic changes should know that they've been back on the metal road for a while after playing gothic rock for some years and no matter which album of these guys you prefer, you know that each of their albums sound like no other and is unique in its own right.
...Except for this time, perhaps. "Solitary One’’ sounds like a leftover from the previous album: a slow, dark piece in the vein of "As Horizons End’’ or perhaps "First Light’’, though this one has no intro to prepare for the dark isolation it brings with moody guitars wailing all over the place, dramatic keys and Nick’s almost schizophrenic vocal delivery: switching between vulgar (but controlled) shouting and weary, innocent clean vocals (although they’re not clean in a pretty sense.) This is by far the most inaccessible song the band have written in years and the first times I've heard it, I would scratch my head by the end of it. A weird pick for an opener, but definitely a great song nonetheless.
The rest of the album is far more accessible but still enjoyable - although after a few tracks you know what you're going to get which is somewhat a pity. "Honesty in Death’’ is structure-wise somewhat reminiscent of the Icon days with extremely simplistic rousing leads and thudding riffs backed up by Nick’s commanding presence. "In This we Dwell’’ and "To The Darkness’’ are surprisingly upbeat tracks and more original tunes. The former containing somewhat Iron Maiden-esque leads and stomping gallop riffing while the latter embrace bursting groove. Closing track ''The Glorious End'' isn't as heavy as the former tracks, but features one of the best leads on the entire album with windy, powerful yet retained guitar approach not really too far removed from the Draconian Times days.
Finally I feel that Nick Holmes’ vocal lines on Tragic Idol aren’t as effective as they could have been. His gentle clean vocals are still present, but his vocal lines are mostly solid and effective. His semi-harsh vocal attack, on the other hand, dominates certain songs and would have worked 20 years ago but nowadays comes of rather doubtful at times. Still, he, along with the other band members are doing what they do best and I feel there’s not much to complain about. If anything I could do without the processed guitar tone Aaron and Greg still play on. Such mesmerizing leads and crunchy riffs would sound better on a more organic guitar tone.
One thing Tragic Idol does well, is keeping consistent – moreso than their previous album. Even softer tunes Paradise Lost always had trouble with pulling off to my ears, such as ''Fear of Impending Hell'' and the titled track are somewhat fun to listen to. The former being somewhat a half ballad with delicate verses and a hard hitting chorus and the latter features an explosive chorus I don't find it surprising that it gets played live so often nowadays. Congratulations guys, you’ve managed not to fuck up – just try a little harder next time will you?
There is no need to retell the story of Paradise Lost in this column: let’s just say these originators of melancholic, gothic-tinged doom/death metal went through a bad and prolonged drought following the release of “Draconian Times” (or “One Second”, depending on who you ask) before slowly but steadily clawing their way back to respectability and finally reconquering their vacant throne with their last album “Faith Divides Us – Death Unites Us”. So, did these stubborn Brits defend their throne with their most recent album ”Tragic Idol”, continuing the staggering upward trajectory that began with the already quite splendid “In Requiem”? In this humble reviewer’s opinion, the answer is a resounding yes. Whether “Tragic Idol” is in fact better than its direct predecessor is a matter of personal taste – it says here that the band’s latest studio output and “Faith Divides Us...” are pretty much on the same, very high level, but you would be hard-pressed to say that “Tragic Idol” is not at least up to par with the album that came before it.
A central trait that should endear “Tragic Idol” to most of Paradise Lost’s fanbase is that it contains elements from most of the band’s classic albums: “Draconian Times” (e. g. in “Solitary One” or “Fear of Impending Hell”), “Icon” (e. g. in “Crucify” or “Honesty in Death”) and even “Shades of God” (“Theories From Another World” or “To the Darkness”). The only thing that’s missing – apart from all the electronic elements the band exhaustively tinkered with during their middle phase, and that’s not much of a loss – are obvious nods to the band’s first two albums, the ones that played a vital role in shaping the entire doom/death genre. Then again, that was hardly to be expected as Nick Holmes has matured a lot since those early days: the man has developed a distinct and varied singing voice, switching seamlessly from gothic crooning to harsh bellowing and even incorporating the occasional semi-death growl without ever sounding as harsh or guttural as on “Lost Paradise” or “Gothic”. It’s a bit of a pity in that the music on “Tragic Idol” is certainly heavy enough to warrant some full-fledged guttural death metal vocals, but it’s not something that drags the album down or is sorely missed. It simply could have enhanced the overall soundscape even more, but Nick Holmes probably feels he has matured beyond that and is too good a singer now to go back to using death growls.
Since song-by-song breakdowns can get tedious (and are frowned upon by the moderators of this site), suffice it to say that “Tragic Idol” is a consistently splendid, supremely well-produced effort containing no duds – “Worth Fighting For” may be a tad unremarkable but still passes as a very decent track – and more than its share of truly magnificent songs, first and foremost the amazing (and surprisingly fast-paced, at least for Paradise Lost standards) “In This We Dwell” and the monolithic closing track “The Glorious End”. The latter starts out in a somewhat somber and subdued way before getting more and more intense and finally unleashing all its majestic doom-laden fury upon the unsuspecting listener. In that respect, it’s much like “In Truth” from “Faith Divides Us...”, only even better. “Tragic Idol” is up there with Paradise Lost’s best work and an album very highly recommended to all metal fans. It wouldn’t even be preposterous to say it’s better than the much-revered “Draconian Times”; at the very least, it’s definitely heavier. Honestly, who would have thought that possible a mere seven or eight years ago?
Choicest cuts: “Fear of Impending Hell”, “Honesty in Death”, “Theories From Another World”, “In This We Dwell”, “The Glorious End”
Even though Paradise Lost has been secured in their old school doom metal sound for nearly a decade now, it seems like every new album they’ve put out is hailed as the second coming of Icon and Draconian Times with little regard for previous efforts. Tragic Idol is certainly no exception though it is noteworthy for coming out so quickly after Gregor Mackintosh’s Vallenfyre unleashed their death/doom debut and for featuring that project’s drummer Adrian Erlandsson as the latest in a very long line of timekeepers.
Unsurprisingly, Tragic Idol’s sound isn’t too far removed from that of 2009’s Faith Divides Us – Death Unites Us and goes by the established mix of darkness and accessibility. Yet at the same time, the band’s classic doom metal influences were made a little more prominent this time around and result in even more melodic touches and slower tempos than usual.
The band members also sound good and don’t seem to deviate too far from their usual techniques. Vocalist Nick Holmes still goes by his signature James Hetfieldian bark and the guitars are strong though hearing Mackintosh’s approach in Vallenfyre makes me wonder if the band could ever pull of a heavier dual vocalist format. Speaking of which, the drums are at their best on the heavier tracks like “Theories From Another World” and “In This We Dwell.” Let’s just hope they manage to keep Erlandsson around for a while…
While Paradise Lost has never been as riff-driven as their peers in groups like Cathedral, they can get some excellent choruses gong and this release is certainly no exception. As previously mentioned, most of the songs utilize slower tempos and somber melodies though nothing ever truly goes into ballad territory. “Honesty In Death” and “Fear Of Impending Hell” are the most memorable of this type though the title track also throws in some enjoyable hooks to go along with the brooding.
On the flip side, there aren’t really any fast songs on here but some tracks do bring in a little more energy. “To The Darkness” has a solid groove while “In This We Dwell” and “Theories From Another World” bring in more active drumming. “Crucify” is another interesting tracks thanks to its more modern guitar approach and vocal lines.
But with everything on here, it is somewhat disappointing to see that “The Last Fallen Saviour,” a track streamed initially exclusively through Decibel, wasn’t included on this release. Though its upbeat feel would’ve made it quite the oddball, it’d probably be a stronger addition than “The Solitary One” or “The Glorious End.”
Overall, this may be seen as one of those albums that sounds rather safe but is made enjoyable by the strong song content. It’s definitely an essential purchase for fans and it might not be a bad choice for newbies to make either. It’d be nice to see them combine their revivalist sound with their more experimental days; I can’t be the only Paradise Lost fan that would love to hear a return to the One Second sound…
“Fear Of Impending Hell”
“Honesty In Death”
“Theories From Another World”
Originally published at http://suite101.com
After the absolute treasure that was Faith Divides Us – Death Unites us, my spirit was soaring (or is that decaying) in anticipation of this next release from British doom metal originators Paradise Lost. I never really abandoned the band through their experimental electronic phase, but neither did this period resonate with me as much as their metallic offerings, so this unfettered return to pure heaviness and the darkness of real, fantastically heavy doom was a surprise and a treat. In fact, Faith/Death was one of my favorites of 2009, so it’s safe to say my expectations for Tragic Idol were perhaps a bit too high.
This is not to imply, however, that Tragic Idol in any way falters. Indeed, it takes the reaffirmation of strength and spirit that was mustered on Faith/Death and continues to chisel the face of doom onto the dark mountain that is their career. If anything, they follow this now established formula a bit too closely here, and any condemnation I initially offered was based almost solely on an overwhelming sense of familiarity. Tragic Idol is a dense, crushing, bittersweet album that only slightly disappoints in the fact that it is forced to follow its defining and memorable older brother, an album I find just a hair more memorable, when all is said and done.
A mark in its favor, there is not a single track I would trim from Tragic Idol. The opener, Solitary One, is unusually dark and hostile, more so than anything on Faith, crawling through depths of pure anger, the natural melancholy offset by minimal twinkling of starry keyboards, a very pretty juxtaposition that outlines the contrasting emotions that make Paradise Lose what they are, sadness and beauty swirling together like an effigy of life itself. Crucify begins with resonant thrashing, but soon crawls back into the filthy depths of the opening track, dark and sluggishly majestic. A hallmark of legitimately sweet doom is its ability to be heavy as fuck without requiring speed, a trait that Tragic Idol so far exhibits seemingly without effort.
Fear of Impending Hell continues the lumbering, sluggishly angry tendencies of the first few, trading off the distinct, kingly yells of Nick Holmes with a softer, more somber vocal pitch, a trait they’ve been carrying for some time. Honesty in Death has one of the more infectious leads and choruses within the album, but does little to change pace or tone, feeding the imagery of the band standing tall, like ancient beings of stone, brooding in palatial mountain fortresses, screaming out to the skies. Theories From Another World finally picks things up, a blackened, swirling storm of venom with typically towering vocals, continuing the onslaught of darkness, but adding some welcome variety to the album’s pacing. In This We Dwell is another mid-paced banger, with haunting leads overlaying a measured storm of riffing, climaxing with effortless grace into a heroic solo. The rest of the album follows suit, sometimes lumbering, sometimes galloping along with a spirit etched indelibly with tangible darkness. If you can, pick up the extended version, which includes two fantastic extra tracks and some live cuts for just that much extra value. Overall, even though it sticks quite closely to the formula molded by Faith/Death, this is certainly the heavier album of the two, and one of their darkest to date.
The riff construction is unceasingly sweet throughout, as Gregor Mackintosh has only gained in resonant feeling throughout the years, every lead an extension of true passion. Drummer Adrian Erlandsson has settled right into the band at this point, a much more relaxed role than his previous output with At the Gates and Cradle of Filth, but nonetheless displaying a practiced finesse that serves the composition without being either too showy or dramatic. The bass is so low and full it creates veritable musical valleys, which the riffs cut through with depth, precision and feeling, led by glorious avian leads that without exception soar high above this dense, apocalyptic composition, while the ceaselessly strong, majestic cries of Holmes echo across this fiery, deserted, frighteningly beautiful landscape.
It may seem odd to say, after so much ringing enthusiasm, that I was subtly disappointed by Tragic Idol. Indeed, it is a towering, megalithic work, and the close adherence to established songwriting archetypes largely removes any element of surprise, but that is not so much an issue when the songs are amazing (EG the new Kreator). Much more importantly, I feel it’s just a tad less memorable when stacked against its immediate predecessor, which still gets substantial playtime from yours truly. For all its admitted power and quality, I don’t find myself humming or craving these tunes like I still do with songs like I Remain and Frailty. To be fair, though, the album grows stronger with repeated listens, and I’d still rate this as essential. So, let my meager complaints by no means dissuade you from cracking open this tomb and letting the sweet, pale essence of doom flood over you. Next to the new release from Candlemass, this is one of the most essential releases in the subgenre this year.
-Left Hand of Dog
The arrival of a new Paradise Lost album has been a big deal to me since ''Draconian Times'' became a permanent fixture in my cd player in 1995. While their history of experimentation has been a subject of debate and derision to some, I’d always welcome a band who has the balls and talent to try the unexpected. It is especially rewarding to us fans when a band proves to be enthralling, whether they are playing the darkest goth metal or ditching the guitars altogether to play electro music.
Musically, Paradise Lost have always epitomized the ''I don’t give a fuck’' attitude. The 13th album from the cheeky northern rascals is a flawless example of a band at the top of its game. They have clearly fully embraced their history, but sound completely fresh and as vital as they come. The previous 2 albums have seen the band slowly move back to the heavy, doom-laden sound of their ''Icon'' and ''Draconian Times'' era of the mid '90s, but each album retains an individual identity. ''Tragic Idol'' is a continuation of this, but stands on its own as one of their most accomplished recordings.
From the outset in the opening track, ''Solitary One'', it is clear that they are leaders, not followers. The first minute incorporates Greg Mackintosh’s trademark guitar licks mixed with an eerily simple, but very effective keyboard tone and some vicious vocals. After a few listens, the hypnotic vein of the keyboard riff and slow groove of the guitars will keep dragging you back for more. Track two, ''Crucify'', was offered as a free download on Valentines Day. This picks up the pace from the slower approach of the opener and feels like an old classic after only 2 months of being available. You’ll be bellowing the chorus ‘'Crucify’' at passers-bys before you know it! The excellently-titled ''Fear of Impending Hell'' features mainly clean vocals over some fantastic bass and light guitars, which helps add to the melancholy and desperation expressed in the lyrics. The atmosphere created in this song is immense, unique, and is one of the highlights of the album. ''Honesty In Death'' is a great composition that's a very heavy, catchy, and traditional Paradise Lost single. ''Theories From Another World'' is a fast, heavy blast of a tune with some excellent drumming from new drummer Adrian Erlandsson. This song ends with a seriously heavy instrumental section that shows they can still cut it with the faster tunes.
The record continues with ''In This We Dwell'' and ''To The Darkness'', two perfect, very fast-paced, almost thrashy songs, and heads to the title track of the album, ''Tragic Idol''. Oh my God. What a song! Great melody. Great chorus! Lyrically, Paradise Lost is sending a message to people who believe that they are more important than others, not realizing their insignificance and irrelevance when it comes to the true meaning of life. It is the standout song of the album. After just a few listens it is embedded in my head and is destined to be a favourite . It is a mid-paced and melodic song with excellent vocal work from Nick Holmes. I think the fans would call it a ‘'banger’' and I’d have to fully agree. It is clearly influenced by gothic Sisters Of Mercy-orientated music, like the next song ''Worth Fighting For'', which resembles Type O Negative's style of music a little bit. It is the only weak song of the album and the only reason I'd give this record a 90% score. It would be great if it were on the ''One Second'' album, but here it is misplaced and a filler. Without this song, the record would score 100%. ''At The Glorious End'' concludes the album in epic fashion. All the great elements of this band's music are here at their finest. It will remind you of Black Sabbath's
''Solitude'' somewhere towards the end of the song. Yes, it is t h a t good.
So Paradise Lost released another perfectly satisfying album. The songs drip with despair, anger, and melancholy, combining doom with gothic and straightforward metal. ''Tragic Idol '' features some great songs and will not disappoint any Paradise Lost fan, though I prefer the ''Faith Divides'' album due to its brutality and lack of catchy melodies. The fans will love this one more as it combines the ''Icon'', ''Draconian Times'', and ''Paradise Lost'' albums and mixes all of the above to produce a very fine, very up to date, already classic Paradise Lost album.
HAIL MIGHTY PARADISE LOST, TRUE SHADOWKINGS, MASTERS OF MISERY, AND EMPERORS OF GOTHIC METAL! HERE IN GREECE, WE LOVE YOU AND WE BLEED FOR YOU, BECAUSE YOU'VE NEVER FAILED US! Very few bands keep releasing inspired records after almost 22 years of continuous songwriting and you are one of them. For that, you have our eternal respect.
When I heard the first chords from “Solitary One”, I hadn't realized it was the new PL album. I thought I was listening to those whining, doomy echoes from Icon and Shades of God that made me admire this band’s work so long ago. I knew I was before another masterpiece from the creators of so-called gothic metal.
The band has clearly tried to get to their roots these last records (since the self-titled one). And I’m not saying I didn’t enjoy the earlier ones, but I pretty much prefer their coming back to the band’s youth that I used to get stunned with. I've enjoyed almost every incarnation of Paradise Lost to this day. I could immerse myself totally while listening to Faith Divides Us... and have been waiting for this one with bated breath. I have to say I’m not disappointed, and even with its excessive loudness, that has been a mark since the last one.
Not surprisingly, Tragic Idol pretty much picks up where their last album, Faith Divides Us…, left off. As though making up for lost time, the band is trying to pack as much crushing doom metal as possible into one album. “Honesty in Death,” “Fear of Impending Hell” (great title!), and the title track are all the type of songs that the band has excelled at writing over the past few albums: heavy, but with melody and hooks and weighted down with oppressive negativity.
Holmes’ lyrics seem to be more focused on death than the usual on this record, and especially now he sounds more nihilistic than ever (as we can feel in “Tragic Idol”, “Honesty In Death”, and “To The Darkness”). Of course, there are some low points as we can see in “Solitary One”, perhaps one of the most melodic and atmospheric tracks. I think the lyric fails to drive us deeper, but despite of its lack of feeling the song sounds really awesome. Mackintosh remains as great as he was on Fatih Devide Us…, accomplishing more with one note than most shredders will accomplish in a lifetime. And although at times I find Nick Holmes to be a little melodically challenged, his voice sounds as strong as it did nineteen years ago with Icon.
Despite the lack of good 'ol harsh vocals, I can still say I was extremely blown away and relieved with Tragic Idol. I believe that if they keep this pace, we may have something close to Gothic in the future, but (and this is not a bad thing, in my mere opinion) we can be completely surprised as we have done so many times.