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Doesn’t Quite Live Up to Its Reputation - 75%

lonerider, May 9th, 2021
Written based on this version: 1995, CD, Music for Nations

Paradise Lost, those veteran merchants of musical melancholy, have always held a special place in my metal heart. There aren’t many bands that can evoke so much heart-wrenching sadness with a few simple lead-guitar chords as this weather-beaten gang of surly Yorkshiremen. At the same time, they are also quite unique in that they have released a multitude of albums throughout a career spanning more than three decades, yet no two albums sound quite the same. Constant stylistic shifts, sometimes moderate and sometimes drastic ones, are one of their trademarks, but that never kept them from maintaining a clear and unmistakeable identity that’s instantly recognizable no matter which one of their many albums you’re listening to.

Despite their stylistic flexibility, we can roughly group Paradise Lost’s studio output into three categories: the early years up to and including Draconian Times, their soul-searching period of more experimental releases beginning with 1997’s One Second, and finally their second spring—beginning with 2007’s In Requiem—, which saw them rediscover the heaviness and doom metal aesthetics of the early to mid 1990s. Seen from that angle, Draconian Times marked the end of the first chapter in the band’s extensive history, the culmination of their ongoing development up to that point but, since it already bore the seeds of what was to come only two years later, also a foreshadowing of their next evolutionary step.

For some reason, Draconian Times appears to be held in particularly high regard by the metal community and while it is without a doubt a worthy addition to Paradise Lost’s impressive portfolio, I have never quite understood the infatuation some people seem to have with it. In many ways, Draconian Times is a watered-down reprise of Icon, which was a more vigorous and determined effort, this time adding some overly maudlin and, frankly speaking, slightly trivial elements to the formula.

Nick Holmes’ performance on Draconian Times exemplifies it best: after starting out as a more or less generic death metal vocalist and having only just established his clean singing voice on Icon, prompting some to call him doom metal’s version of James Hetfield, Holmes pushes it a step further this time around, introducing his “metallic crooning” style and extinguishing the last lingering remnants of death metal gruffness from his vocal delivery. Some might say this was his strongest and most mature performance up to this point, and they may not be wrong from a strictly technical standpoint. Holmes does sound comfortable and fully in charge and there’s no denying his more restrained and melodic approach fits the more streamlined songwriting on Draconian Times.

Songs are mostly kept short and to the point, with the two longest ones up front and the rest rarely exceeding the four-minute mark. In all, the twelve tracks on offer take up a mere 49 minutes and concise cuts such as “The Last Time” or “I See Your Face” are very much geared toward extended airplay and mainstream success. Music television was still all the rage in the mid nineties and “The Last Time,” with its ultra-catchy chorus (“hearts beating... faaaaawr the last time”) and professional music video, was a staple on MTV’s Headbanger’s Ball or similar shows on other channels, giving the band its first veritable hit single and earning them widespread popularity throughout the metal scene. It was also one of Paradise Lost’s faster songs up to that point, rivaled only by the even quicker and somewhat punkish “Once Solemn,” which happens to be track number five on Draconian Times. The more somber “Forever Failure,” with its plodding doom-like pace and infamous Charles Manson sample (“I don’t really know what sorry means”), was also promoted by a music video and certainly ranks among the album’s highlights.

“Elusive Cure,” “Yearn for Change” or the closing “Jaded” are more introverted tunes and they clearly show the limits of Paradise Lost’s songwriting formula on Draconian Times, coming across as passable yet unspectacular tracks which don’t offer anything that like-minded but more succinct and rousing cuts such as “Shades of God” or “Hands of Reason” don’t deliver in more convincing fashion. This may sound rather negative when in fact all of these tracks are quite well done, competently written and cleanly executed. There are no downright duds but a fair share of rather mediocre moments and there’s no sugarcoating that the whole thing starts to feel a bit, well, unspectacular and slightly underwhelming by the time track number twelve rolls around.

Maybe the problem lies in the running order since the band decided to put what are arguably the two best—which also happen to be the longest—songs at the very beginning. With the exception of the excellent “Shadowkings,” which all but captures the same epic mood, “Enchantment” and “Hallowed Land” are definitely the most well-rounded and sweeping compositions, giving the music room to breathe and lending a cinematic vastness and grandeur that the shorter tracks too often lack. For the first time in their career, Paradise Lost extensively use piano and keyboard sounds as a means to enhance the atmosphere and it works wonders here, while the crunchy guitars and overall stellar production provide the metaphorical icing on the cake. And by the way, the “there’s no rule to say you’ll cry alone” section in “Enchantment” as well as the “begone the fools that lead me” part concluding “Hallowed Land” are simply a joy to listen to, proving that when the album hits its stride it’s really pretty darn good.

Alas, as Paradise Lost are unable to maintain that level of quality throughout the album’s entire duration, Draconian Times ends up as a very good and sometimes even great collection of songs that ultimately falls short of its immediate precursor Icon, but also of stylistically comparable later albums such as the stellar “Faith Divides Us – Death Unites Us” and “Tragic Idol,” which are a bit more consistent and maintain a heavier, keener metallic edge. Yes, Draconian Times is a little overrated in my view, but it’s nonetheless one of the most significant and impactful releases in the band’s career and the last album of Paradise Lost’s classic period before they ventured into more experimental territory and later regained their mojo with “In Requiem” and beyond.

Choicest cuts: Enchantment, Hallowed Land, Forever Failure, Shadowkings, I See Your Face

Rating: 7.5 out of 10 points

Sophistication and perfection in musical form - 100%

Absinthe1979, June 21st, 2020
Written based on this version: 1995, CD, Music for Nations

In 1995 I went on a school trip to the big city. We visited one of those huge music stores that tend not to exist anymore, and I made two powerful purchases: Cathedral's ‘The Carnival Bizarre’ and Paradise Lost’s ‘Draconian Times’. Little did I realise, on that fateful day so many years ago, that I was embarking on a lifelong love affair with those haunted Halifax harbingers of emotion.

Perhaps it was the indefatigable optimism of youth, but there was something magical about the mid 90s gothic and doom scenes. The Peaceville 3 and the Century Media roster were pushing out classic after classic, and it was a brilliant time to be alive. Yet, when I really ruminate on things, I can’t escape the conclusion that ‘Draconian Times’ is the jewel in the crown – the masterpiece by which all other albums would be measured.

The first aspect that demands discussion is the production. After the powerful and slightly earthy sounds of ‘Icon’, producer Simon Efemey would go on to create what I consider, all hyperbole aside, the best produced and mixed album I’ve ever heard. The tone here is certainly a freak moment in time, as it has never been reproduced adequately by anybody, despite many attempts. It is built around a clarity and style that is the epitome of class. It is probably the most sophisticated album I’ve ever heard as far as its sound is concerned. It’s an album for adults. It’s erudite, it’s stylish, yet it's also just damn cool. One feels untouchable listening to it. Paradise Lost themselves would never recapture such a superb production.

The tone of the rhythm and lead guitars is something to behold, with its crispy crunch offset by a clarity that oozes luxury. In particular, the drum sound of new member Lee Morris, who replaced the knock-about clatter of Matthew Archer, is without doubt the best drum sound I’ve ever heard. The snare is just incredible – every hit is a masterpiece and the hi-hats and cymbals are exquisite, which makes their move into electronics and alternative beats on ‘One Second’ one of the true tragedies in metal history and a classic example of a squandered resource. They essentially abandoned the perfect gothic metal drummer with the perfect drum sound. But I digress….

Nick Holmes’s voice, for the first time, is clear, controlled and permanently in key, with the mid-range barks that traditionally sat across the riff now honed and merged with the music. His stronger use of clean voice to offset the gruffness was a masterstroke, and I consider this his finest performance (although I admit he sounds fantastic on ‘Obsidian’ too). His timing and meter are just perfect, with the final word of the verses often leading in to the pre-chorus or chorus, almost unconsciously creating a poetic and driving effect. While the lyrics are esoteric and vastly open to personal interpretation, their delivery really is mathematically perfect.

Again, once they aimed at commercial success with ‘One Second’ and ‘Host’, Holmes's vocal shortcomings were exposed terribly. There was no way they were going to have cross-over popularity with a workmanlike voice like that. But when applied to the gothic heaviness of ‘Draconian Times’, it’s a marriage made in tragic heaven, entirely appropriate, and divine.

And the songs… ‘Enchantment’ begins with those haunting piano notes from Andrew Holdsworth that – certainly back in 1995 – suggested something stunningly different from the usual metal fare of the day. The guitars, those oh so glorious guitars, set the precedent for a thousand imitators, with their down-stroke melodies and that keyboard pulsing crescendo at the end. 'Enchantment' remains my favourite Paradise Lost song, and one of my overall favourites.

The singles ‘The Last Time’ and ‘Forever Failure’ offer smooth rock and grand epic doom respectively, and that single note chugging style that would soon be borrowed significantly by Katatonia, Rapture and countless others is so utterly effective. ‘Shades of God’, which is curiously titled considering their album of the same name, is a slow and powerful doom anthem with a great lead guitar rhythm that sends chills, while the deep cuts like ‘Yearn for Change’ and ‘I See Your Face’ are just a joy to listen to. 'Hallowed Land' is a miracle song, with a brilliant drum pattern from Morris - listen to his drums in this song, they're just incredible in their taste, execution and sound. The album is full of brilliant songs that are also so strangely understated and almost modest, and this is part of their ultimate sophistication.

The artwork is of course completely iconic. The front cover, with that colourful multi-faceted image by Holly Warburton was, and is, so utterly original for the scene that I’m still struggling to come to terms with its greatness even today. The booklet on the original CD version is stunning, with the band's faces similarly painted over and graphically adorned; lyrics on simple white pages, and further Warburton masterpieces throughout. The CD itself is black, and there’s a white Paradise Lost logo in the centre of the black tray, which I’ve always found was a nice touch.

Paradise Lost’s legacy is secure. They have produced some brilliant albums across their 30 plus year history, and despite some now forgivable oddities, they’re still pumping them out today. Yet, I would argue that ‘Draconian Times’ stands as an untouchable monument. Considering it was released in 1995, it was so far ahead of its time as to be laughable. Even peers like My Dying Bride and Anathema were entrenched in doomy gothic music that – as brilliant as ‘The Angel and the Dark River’ and ‘The Silent Enigma’ are (god, they were great days…) – wasn’t as refined and sophisticated as Paradise Lost at that point.

‘Draconian Times’ is imperious, elegant, sophisticated, and powerful. It's a true classic. It also opened a new world to this school boy back in 1995, in the big city, holding his musical future in his hands as he left the music store, little realising what that moment truly meant.

All you need is a simple reminder... - 100%

goflotsam, July 7th, 2019

All you need is a simple reminder that Draconian Times by Paradise Lost is arguably the band's high point in their career. Paradise Lost coined the term gothic metal with their album Gothic but really didn't show signs of the genre until followups Shades of God and Icon. Paradise Lost ultimately mastered the genre they pioneered in 1995 with their album Draconian Times which went on to sell over a million albums worldwide. This took the Metallica influence to a whole new level.

And a whole new level of melody was added. On Icon, the Hetfield-esque vocals were more obvious, but on Draconian Times they're more varied. Each of the first four tracks are classic numbers. "Enchantment" for starters displays more variation in Nick Holmes' vocal range such as a more traditional gothic metal baritone which can be found in the other songs on the album. "Hallowed Land" is also an excellent number which reminds me of "Enter Sandman" but with a mix of keyboards and a really sick guitar solo. "The Last Time" is another excellent number which I could describe as a mashup between Metallica and Depeche Mode. These two bands along with Godflesh are probably the big influences on Draconian Times. "Forever Failure" may have depressing vocals, but the lyrics which are about motivation, help me get on with my day.

Even Paradise Lost, who are still active as of this writing knew they'd be writing uplifting songs on Draconian Times. Nick Holmes even had choral effects in the album which didn't detract from the album's quality. Obviously Cher had no influence on Holmes' singing. Holmes' best performance is on "Shadowkings" where his vocals are the most emotional. Drummer Lee Morris displays some industrial influence such as on songs like "The Last Time" and "Hands of Reason". I guess he must've been a closet Godflesh fan. Guitarists Gregor Mackintosh and Aaron Aedy play some rather ethereal riffs but on tracks like "Hallowed Land", they dish out some really groovy riffs. However, some tracks like "Elusive Cure" display usage of acoustic guitars which adds a bit of atmosphere to the songs. Stephen Edmondson's bass perfectly blends with songs like "Yearn for Change" and "Jaded" which adds more to the atmosphere of Draconian Times. Even the keyboards provided by session musician Andrew Holdsworth are beautiful on this album with "Hallowed Land" in particular receiving praise in this regard. It's just such a beautiful album.

The beautiful thing about Draconian Times is that it came out a month before I was even born. Although most people would point at Type O Negative for being the best band within the genre, this is also gothic metal done right. Unfortunately, Paradise Lost pretty much sold out with after this album with 1997's One Second. However, at the end of the day, Draconian Times stands tall as Paradise Lost's peak in their three decade career. If you're trying to get into Paradise Lost's Gothic (or death-doom in general) but need help transitioning, I'd start with this album and work your way backwards. It's the perfect album to get into gothic metal or death-doom and arguably one of the greatest doom metal albums ever made. A stone-cold classic.

Warning: might stick in your head forever - 70%

colin040, August 25th, 2017

Bands aiming for a more accessible sound is always a risky move. It’s not like I don’t value catchy and accessible metal more often but it’s just not something certain bands were made for and we all know what certain bands ending up sounding like.

Fortunately, Paradise Lost weren’t completely caught up in a ‘’must appeal to mainstream audience!’’ phase, as Draconian Times isn't exactly a 180 degree turn compared to Icon, even if things get pushed to their limits here. With chunky riffs, singing leads and big choruses, this is the kind of metal that was meant to be played live. With a far less morose feel to it, the band still plays gothic metal here as their metal departure wouldn’t be embraced until their next record. Holmes roars and belts out these tunes with his trademark sound for the last time (ha-ha) and sounds a bit more grounded than before. This is important to mention as his vocal lines are basically the main ingredient of the record. Musically things become a bit shallow compared to the band’s earlier works but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. ‘’Enchantment’’ is a larger than life opener - due to its epic arrangements has a grandiose feel to it and I’d almost say it sets the bar too high as none of the following tracks come close to its brilliance. That’s not to say there aren’t any other worthy tunes here. I dig the guitar swing of ‘’Hallowed Land’’ that allows Greg to be all over the place while ‘’Shadowkings’’ features an odd at first, yet welcoming chorus that allows Holmes to use his cleaner crooning more.

It’s not without any musical stinkers, though. The upbeat ‘’Once Solemn’’ goes one ear in and one ear out while the dull rocker ‘’The Last Time’’ has to be one of Paradise Lost’s worst tracks of all time. You can really tell the band were dumbing down but that hardly matters because this is so catchy plenty of its choruses appear in my head from time to time, even when I’m not doing anything Paradise Lost related. (That is, listening to them, mind you!) Perhaps the chorus of ‘’Jaded’’ was meant to be a brainwash people into liking it? It’s also no wonder Draconian Times would be played in its entirely later on. ‘’Yearn for Change’’ must be the ideal crowd pumper and I can only imagine a thousand of young adults shouting along to it in self-pity.

Draconian Times isn’t exactly a profound album, but that’s not the reason why you would listen to Paradise Lost to begin with, or would it? I’m not even sure anymore - all I can say is that these choruses haven’t left my head ever since I’ve displayed my mind to them and I think I’m ok with that.

A Monument - 100%

NeueRegel, July 19th, 2017

It seems only fitting that my first review is about the album I've listened most in my life. Draconian Times to me is the equivalent of homecoming after a long period of absence. Every song is like retracing my steps, slowly but with confidence, to my very own place. I can't describe it differently. From the very first time I've listened to it until now, Draconian Times manages to evoke the exact same feelings every time I put it on my stereo. This is an outstanding achievement. Nothing else, no film, no album, no book does the same thing to me. Draconian Times remains a constant in my life for about nine years now. No matter how I've changed, it remains immutable.

Having said that, I don't just give a perfect score to an album just because it's something special for me. Musically speaking, nothing comes close to what Paradise Lost are playing here. Essentially, this is a perfect example of gothic metal. Doom influences are also present but they are scarcer. The point is that Paradise Lost managed to create a unique sound, thanks mainly to yours truly Gregor Mackintosh. Of course nobody waited Draconian Times to acknowledge the ability of sir Mackintosh to write distinctive music. But here he exceeds himself. The guitar tone is out of this world and it remains inimitable up to this day. The riffs are packed with tons of emotion. Each note carries unbearable shades of sadness and despair. What is interesting is that we are not talking about insanely heavy riffs or whatnot, quite the contrary. The guitar work can almost be characterized "light". Don't expect overly heavy riffs and mourning melodies like those in the first three albums of the band. The overwhelming doom sentiment of Icon is also absent. The guitars here are not completely devoid of heaviness but they generally aim for the heart in a more down to earth and direct way.

There are two more elements that contribute in their own way to the perfection of Draconian Times. The first of those two is the voice and the lyrics of Nick Holmes. About the lyrics, I do believe that he reached his peak in Icon and Draconian Times. Of course he never fails to deliver but in these two albums he really is impeccable in every song. The lyrics revolve around personal matters mostly with some necessary religious inklings. If you've listened to Paradise Lost before you know what to expect. The words here are true, poetic, never pretentious, they embody the soul of the music without faults. Holmes has abandoned any notion of death metal vocals, here he sings cleanly throughout the whole album. And what a performance he gives! He really sounds like a man on a crossroad to nowhere in his life. If the guitars of this album could talk, they could have only that voice. The last important factor of this album is the rather underappreciated mister Lee Morris behind the drum kit. Now, I am no expert in drums but what I hear here is top notch drumming, at least that's what my untrained ears perceive. Inventive, clever playing that boosts each song. Listen to these drum fills in "Enchantment", for example. Here we have one of the best examples possible for what part drums should play in a song. Their role is not just complementary, they should enrich the whole experience.

I think it is not necessary to talk about the songs here. They all follow the same pattern more or less and are rather simple in structure. I think that they are all winners, they all have something to contribute. The album is an indivisible entity, it would never cross my mind to add or subtract anything to it. As for their quality, just add up all the elements I stated above. The production is as it should be. Every instrument can be heard clearly, the sound is warm and creates a fantastic antithesis with the immense despair that surrounds each song. Last but not least, the artwork needs some special mention. It encapsulates perfectly the essence of this music.

Overall, what Paradise Lost created here is an album for the ages. A milestone in metal music in general. Forget genres, just give it a try and I firmly believe that you'll be rewarded tenfold back or at least you will recognize that this is a distinct work of art. Closing in a personal note, I am convinced that I will never abandon Draconian Times. This is my refuge, this is where I run to whenever I am in need of solace. There are only a few albums that had the same impact on me, but this one here will always have a special place in my heart, reserved only for it.

Less distinctive, but more accessible - 79%

gasmask_colostomy, October 3rd, 2014

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 judgement. 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 5 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 (a greater focus on 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 3 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 5 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's 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's 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.

James Hetfield sings for The Sisters Of Mercy - 90%

Sigillum_Dei_Ameth, August 2nd, 2011

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'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.

Paradise Lost sez: “GIVE US YOUR MONEY!” - 77%

Acrobat, February 7th, 2009

‘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.

A Simple Masterpiece - 95%

reignmaster, January 10th, 2009

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.

The last Doom Metal release for a few years. - 100%

grimdoom, March 22nd, 2008

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.

Moving, melancholic, though a tad unequal - 76%

Sean16, October 24th, 2006

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...

One of PL's last superb albums! - 89%

WitheringToSerenity, March 19th, 2004

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)