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Arrival - 100%

finbar, March 5th, 2019

After several years of experimentation and musical growth, PL released their career-defining album Icon. On this release they demonstrated the streamlined approach that would be present on all of their following albums and would eventually become their calling card. Gone are the progressive tendencies showcased on their previous album Shades Of God, and the gothic elements that were very prevalent on their sophomore effort have been reduced considerably. The end result is a very focused album that combines all of PL's strengths in a concise format. The lumbering rhythm guitars along with the steady rhythm section serve as the platform for the trade-offs between Gregor Mackintosh's signature leads and Nick Holmes's gruff vocals. Although the band received some criticism for significantly toning down the heavier aspects of their sound, Icon created quite the buzz upon it's release and elevated PL's profile to new heights.

Album opener Embers Fire starts with an eerie and quite deceptive intro that is a definite throwback to PL's second album. However, as soon the band kicks in, it becomes clear that Icon is going to be something quite different. The simple, yet incredibly effective, guitar work is the first indication of the band's new approach - Combining their atmospheric and gloomy character with the bare bones heavy metal style that became so popular after the release of Metallica's Black Album. The second indication would be Nick's new vocal style, which also seemed to be influenced by mid-career James Hetfield. Despite the fact that PL were obviously paying attention to the then-current trends in metal and implemented those characteristics in their sound, they managed to maintain a strong sense of identity and avoid becoming a pale Metallica clone. The stripped down arrangements and structures ended up highlighting the strong songwriting that is showcased throughout the album, as each haunting melody is given plenty of room to echo and grasp the listener.

The occasional gothic embellishment, whether in the form of the prominent female vocals on the eerie Christendom or the keyboard passages on album closer Deus Misereatur, adds tremendously to the album's atmosphere and helps set PL apart from their contemporaries. The band strikes a good balance between the more energetic numbers and the slower ones while maintaining consistency throughout the entire album. Songs like Remembrance, Dying Freedom, Widow, Weeping Words and Poison showcase the band's ability to convincingly execute powerful heavy metal tracks at a higher tempo without losing focus on the melodic and atmospheric aspects of the song, and even though their previous albums also featured some quality up-tempo material, the much improved production job and the more concise songwriting help in elevating the aforementioned tracks to new heights. Among the slower songs on the album you'll find career highlights such as Joys Of The Emptiness, Colossal Rains and True Belief which manage the impossible task of being both soul-crushingly depressing and incredibly infectious, which, in a way, sums up perfectly the essence of Paradise Lost.

As I've mentioned, the production job on Icon is another major step forward and serves as a key element behind the effectiveness of the songs. The guitars create an oppressive wall of sound and are ably supported by the thunderous drums. The only drawback is the bass guitar which is still not as audible as it would be on the following albums, but it still rounds out the low-end well enough to create a fairly balanced soundscape. It's important to note that the production still maintains some of the gritty nature of the earlier albums and feels like a natural step towards the crystalline sound that would be presented on Draconian Times.

The word evolution often comes to mind when one examines the process-driven career of Paradise Lost and Icon presents a significant step in that process. It marks the point where the band went from being an exciting and innovative young group in search of it's voice to a confident, fully realized force with a clear sense of identity and vision. An absolute highlight in the band's stellar discography.

Gloomy 'n moody but not without fun - 87%

colin040, September 4th, 2015
Written based on this version: 1993, CD, Music for Nations

Paradise Lost had no problem switching musical styles over the years. Even in their first "Stage" (Lost Paradise-Draconian Times era) they never made the same album twice and continued to try something different and I feel that this is the point where they created their best work they ever did: finding the right mix between accessibility, fine musicianship and solid song writing.

The year is 1993. Paradise Lost have abandoned their doom/death metal roots and arguably play gothic metal for the first time in their career. With a far more accessible approach, all the tunes on here are rather catchy, much more memorable and a lot more straight to the point than the ones you had heard on Shades of God. The traditional doom-y vibe of that album has also vanished into oblivion here as well. Production wise Icon also hints a cleaner direction: it’s top notch here and the best they had at this point. The guitars have punch, but sound more organic and louder than they did on previous Paradise Lost albums while the drums are nicely kept in the background. If anything the bass guitar doesn’t shine as much as on Shades of God but then again it has never been a highlight of any Paradise Lost album as far as I’m concerned.

Greg’s no longer coming up with obvious Black Sabbath-esque riffs here. Instead he comes up with mostly flowing low end power chords, although he still likes to throw an occasional energetic banger of a riff on the table at times. The lack of as many riffs are compensated by the addition of many leads: ranging from quasi bluesy shredding to more phantom-like, gloomy leads Greg Mackintosh is mostly known for. The somewhat softer musical style reveals another side of Nick Holmes as he’s singing for the first time at this point and it shows. His style is hardly impressive here: maniacal barking slightly out of tune here and there. The emotion in his voice is definitely there though as his screams in a way you’d just feel his notes instead of only hear them.

Song writing is mostly top-notch here: "Embers Fire" is an excellent opener and conjures the image of each band member loosen up and rocking out while standing in the shades of a huge cathedral. Nick Holmes does his best attempt to sound like an actual singer although he’s clearly struggling at times (A cruel elite that’s from a distant zooOOOne) however, I feel that it adds a sort of charm to the tune. Greg’s leads are classy as expected, especially during that anthem of a chorus – which is probably the most fun you’d have with a Paradise Lost at this point. There’s still plenty of gloom and doom to be found here, though. "Joy of the Emptiness" isn’t much of a rocker but rather focuses on hypnotizing tapping while the verses get carried away by an autumn like gust. "Dying Freedom" carries a faster pace with Nick’s "Sing along" sort of vocal lines coming back making it a great example of slightly energetic gothic metal, even if it carries a strong 90’s feeling to it. "Colossal Rain" features creeping and moody guitar swings with a big in your face kind of chorus with Nick being mostly in the for front.

Still, I can’t help but feel that Icon does start to drag, being 50 minutes long. "Shallow Seasons" is by no means bad but just feels like a tune to exceed the album’s length just because. "Christendom" might be the most stereotype gothic-y tune Paradise Lost wrote here, combining Nick’s almost hurt sounding vocal lines with "angelic" female cleans with Greg Mackintosh just displaying some leads giving the idea even he is running out of ideas. "Deus Miserateur" is an outro that doesn’t have much value with a thunder guitar chug and a sinister sounding piano sounds more like a soundtrack for an old horror movie than anything else.

While definitely not flawless, Icon to me represents Paradise Lost at their most focused. They reached a wider audience during this period and would slowly grow to become an even bigger band. If you’re new to them then this is the album you should probably start with.

Full of great touches - 94%

gasmask_colostomy, December 16th, 2014

There are some albums that just have "classic" written all over them. For some, Paradise Lost's Gothic is one such album: an innovative, unsettling exploration into dark doom territories. For others, Draconian Times is PL's magnum opus: a towering, morbidly hit-heavy platter. For me, Icon is the album with that extra something that makes it bigger and bad-asser (not a real word - the true influence of great music) than the others. The opening rumble of violin on 'Embers Fire' and those massive, cocky one-chord riffs that Gregor Mackintosh pulls off in both verse and chorus are both signs of a band high on confidence and creativity, not to mention the traditionally shredding solo that gets the tone just close enough to face-melting to turn the slower tempos into something exciting.

There are 13 songs on Icon. Did you notice that? That seems like a lot, but the bad ones are...on other albums. The band rectified the slight error of Shades of God, where songs tended to meander and drag, by cutting all the fat out of the writing and leaving an average length of barely 4 minutes, even if one excuses the clear presence of an outro track. Every song has a fresh idea and, for a band who play predominantly at mid-pace or slower, everything feels up-tempo and energetic, aside from a few cast-iron doom parts, such as the incredibly oppressive yet melodic signature riff on 'Joys of the Emptiness'. The balance is absolutely superb and makes the album feel effortlessly light: there are little orchestral parts, big riffs, memorable vocals, belting choruses, inventive melodies, and a sense of band unity that takes everything to another level.

The "hits" on Icon were ostensibly 'Embers Fire' and 'True Belief', but the band didn't release singles in the way that they would over the following few years. 'True Belief' is an odd one, since it became PL's anthem in a sense, though it has neither stomping riffs (in the way that some of the material at this time was compared to Metallica's self-titled) or a huge chorus, instead flowing by in a shimmer of feedback and elegant timing, especially the guitar solo at the end that just lifts itself out of the chorus riff and rises to elegant heights. Any of these songs could have been picked as a single though, such is the great depth and catchiness of the set. Of the less obvious cuts, I particularly enjoy 'Widow' with its impossibly simple yet effective rising scales in the chorus, 'Poison', which does everything the band tried to do on the epics of Shades of God but in 3 minutes, while 'Christendom' is perhaps the first clear sign of where the gothic metal genre was headed, with its mixture of clean chords, male/female vocals, and a distinct religious preoccupation.

Star of this show is far and away Gregor Mackintosh. If an album has ever been so completely shaped by the manoeuvres of its lead guitarist, I think I've yet to hear it. He soars and shreds over his more stable bandmates, giving each song so much detail and intricacy that there is always a little more to extract on each listening experience. There's also the fact that he plays melody like no one else: plus, because some of his ideas on Icon are so simple, they sound completely extraordinary as well as instantly catchy or haunting. Nick Holmes is not as front and centre as he would become, but his subtlety (he also refuses to give in to the obvious or clichéd) is his appeal and his minimalist lyrics are singularly memorable. The rhythm players have some interesting parts to play as well, such as the breakdown in 'Poison', though the bass is rarely distinct in the mix. The guitar riffs have a great tone and alternate between chugs that are reminiscent of '90s Metallica - though I prefer the guitar tone here - and more crushing, doomier trips, best experienced by listening to the mix of styles on 'Shallow Seasons'. Production is the best PL had had up to this point and emphasises the strengths of the band very well, but does sound like a product of its time.

There are very few albums that satisfy from top to tail for 50 minutes, and Icon is still streets ahead of most of the softer gothic metal bands that it influenced, both in skill and ability to captivate. Weirdly neglected owing to the more commercially successful Draconian Times, Icon is the sound of a band with the wind in their sails, going wherever their imagination takes them.

It's a really boring album. - 35%

caspian, January 13th, 2014

The Peaceville Three are a strange one in that one of them (MDB) is a few million times better than the others. It'd be like the big 4 if it was Slayer, Trivium, Nickelback and Avenged Sevenfold or something. This album's a good enough example- simply put, neither Anathema and PL have the songwriting chops to pull off straight forward catchy stuff. Fair to say My Dying Bride probably don't either, but that's ok as they don't bother with that sort of dross. Anyway, on with the album.

I tend to think of this as being quite similar to a gothic (and vastly inferior) version of the black album, probably because of the singing moreso than anything else. Sure, the sonics aren't super similar- this is a lot more gothic and dark than black album (and it doesn't have Struggle Within. Boo!), but in it's mid paced, in it's going for (note that I didn't say "succeeding in") catchiness and big hooks- it's similar enough. Unfortunately, a far worse vocalist, lack of monolithic production, lack of interesting guitar parts, lack of huge hooks makes Icon a really tiring listen.

It's just there, without really achieving much. There's a few powerful moments, True Belief's haunting chorus, Joys of The Emptiness's pretty cool intro riff, and the one sort of catchy song, the opener. The leads- all very Brave Murder Day-esque, although that might be a anachronism- aren't too bad either, although whether they ever really have all that much to say is certainly up for debate. Otherwise, it's very boring guitar "riffs" (I'd like to go back in time and shoot the person who decided that play a straightforward chord progression with a distorted guitar was considered acceptable in metal) with a cut price Hetfield impersonator doing, well, doing a cut price Hetfield impersonation.

What else to say? A few moments that do link up pretty well, the occasional tasteful lead and (rare) moment where the rhythm guitars link up for something powerful but overall, sadguy mid-paced boredom with a crap vocalist that drags on forever. Why this isn't slammed by basically everyone around is totally beyond me. Apologies if this review is a bit dull and boring but I feel that kind of fits the album it's talking about. Avoid! Try the earlier stuff if you're keen, and pretend the band stopped existing after Gothic.

Paradise Lost - Iconic - 100%

vk66, May 5th, 2013

The problem with listening to Paradise Lost is you cannot listen to anything else, their atmosphere engulfs you and the only way out is to listen to more of Paradise Lost to which my friend replied, they're more addictive than alcohol. Indeed, what we have here is the helm of human expressionism of loss, sorry and despair, there are various ways of expressing these, some people paint, some build, some write, some write music. Paradise Lost does everything of those in tandem, making them the true pioneers alongside the other celebrated British bands. Digging into the album, even before you take out the cover of the disc, the album cover stares at you in 3D, this is a very delicate picture, everything the album has to offer is right there, notice the shaken/distorted face representing a view so broken so without hope, a damsel resting herself for solace but there's nothing she can feel but just a stone face of shut emotions. Icon is a mere representation of everything that the band promises you through the artwork.

A unique thing about Icon is the unique rhythm section across all the album, every song stands for itself and is distinguishable in it's own right. The album opener Embers Fire, drowns you into the hollow this band carries around, the riffs are thick enough, very well written, arranged and carefully put together, although the band follows a routine para/riff, chorus, para/riff pattern, the music that they wrap up the lyrics with is extraordinary. A good number of fans truly understand the driving forces Nick Holmes and Greg Mackintosh are, a change in Nick's vocals kept few fans off this release but I completely love how conflicting the music and the vocals are, it's like giving the listener two messages, a sense of dreary mellow with burning angst, it gels fantastically for me. Greg MacKintosh a guitarist extraordinaire, he's very suttle with his frets, his sense of timing is absolutely blissful, very carefully woven lead parts that entwine Nick Holmes vocals and a unique rhythm section. The best example is the track Joys of Forgiveness, before dissecting it, portion of the lyrics -

Violence caressing, impending distress
As my body lay sleeping, eternally bleeding, and...

Shallow despair, broken years years you cannot repair
Summoned here, and all must see the hypocrisy
Peed back the face, the sorry mind, a vacant space
Born deprived, the moods expired in reality.

This is poetry, imagine putting together a layer of gloomy blanket of riffs over these which match up to every word written in thought and meaning, MacKintosh just done that, he's a craftsman, like a carpenter, he's a very fresh riff writer, Icon was released in 1993, both the production and the music on this are still fresh to this day in 2013. The drums are strictly in their territorial range alongside bass, nothing special or nothing bad but these are done just right, how many albums have we heard where the instruments and musicians do exactly what they are supposed to do and nothing else? These come by very rarely. The strength of the band is the line up and like I said the atmosphere that they create with every song and with every progressing second is their true strength which is an absolute rarity. In days where one riff extends to 13 minutes, Paradise Lost had already reached the pinnacle of the genre with a calculatively creative output that will stand the test of time.

A flawless expression of this medium - 100%

autothrall, November 9th, 2009

Icon marked the 4th full-length foray for the British gothic doom pioneers, and rather a perfection of form. While the previous Shades of God was a mediocre attempt at bridging the band's death/doom roots to a more accessible use of melody, this album truly delivered the experience and surpassed even their widely regarded classic Gothic in terms of memorable songwriting.

Notable here are the superb, sad guitar melodies which drone across each of the 13 tracks, as well as Nick Holmes' decision to abandon the guttural growling fully in favor of Hetfield tinged clean vocals and the occasional deep goth croon. Together these elements created an album of intense sorrow and emotional power, one of my favorite releases in the doom genre yet today. The perfect rainy day affair.

"Embers Fire" starts with some soft synth tones before the slow groove of its downtrodden yet mighty guitar hooks erupts. "Remembrance" picks up the pace ever slightly with its groove and four-chord verse brooding beneath echoing guitars. This is one of the more 'rock out' parts of the album. The opening riff to "Forging Sympathy" also rocks out until it is eclipsed by the unbelievably sad and mesmerizing verse riff.

From here the album truly begins to harness its somber strength. "Joys of the Emptiness" is severe doom for a dreary day, it's acoustic bridge evoking emotional discourse from void of despair. "Dying Freedom" once again makes use of a light synth intro before the incredible melodies of Aedy and Mackintosh and a killer chugging hook. "Widow" drives along, a well-paced percussion march, buried beneath the environment of its deep, weeping sky. "Colossal Rains" is another stunner, in particular the ways the vocal samples echo behind the verse, and then the perfectly placed 'breakdown' chug with its creepy guitar melody. "Weeping Words" and "Poison" both rock, the latter being one of my favorite tunes here, written in a style the band would repeat numerous times over their next albums Draconian Times and One Second (both also good, but not THIS good). "True Belief" is an epic tune with a beautiful guitar melody beneath Holme's newfound rasp. "Shallow Seasons" is once again powerful, and "Christendom" features some tasteful female vocals amidst its glorious melodies and barrage of chords, recalling a little of the Gothic vibe. "Deus Misereatur" is a fitting end to a perfect album, an instrumental with lush, gorgeous and sad synthesizers amidst a thumping bass, flowering into piano doom.

The lyrics, though obvious, are pretty solid on this release. The production sounds fresh to my ears even today, not only for the crunch of its guitars and steady stream of melody but for its ability to immortally capture the emotional drag of the compositions. Gothic doom simply does not get better than this album. It sounds sincere rather than the emotional blathering of some wrist cutting reject. The weight of the atmosphere is crushing, yet it knows exactly when to rock. Though Paradise Lost have gifted us with many wonderful and miserable albums over the years, from the groundbreaking Gothic to the accessible excellence of Symbol of Life, I still consider this to be their masterpiece, a flawless expression of this medium.


Their Best and the Inflection Point - 93%

problemchild, October 30th, 2007

Paradise Lost achieved with their 1993’s release ICON, the highest point in their career. This album isn’t just their best one, but I would also say the climax of one style quite difficult to define: Gothic Metal from early-middle nineties, and certainly a clear influence in so many groups later on. In the second CD with Music For Nations the group kept on with their evolution. If in the preceding album SHADES OF GOD we could appreciate the way they were gonna take, in ICON this is even more obvious.

Nick Holmes’ voice doesn’t sound as powerful as it was in GOTHIC. He doesn’t use his impressive hoarse vocals anymore, although he can mould much more the tones in the songs.

Apart from the voice and vocal lines, it’s necessary to talk about the music and its creator Gregor Mackintosh (the brain of the band) who wrote such good melodies for the songs in this album. Probably the most distinctive difference between this band and others are those lead guitar lines that Gregor Mackintosh used to play. Giving a dark, beautiful and definitely gothic style to the songs. I also would like to say how good the drummer Matt Archer was for the band. Much more effective and heavy than his substitute after ICON, Lee Morris.

From the very beginning of the orchestral arrangements in “Embers Fire” you realise you’re listening precious music. Later the song continues between riffs and vocal lines that make the song one of my favourites of the group, probably together with “Eternal” from GOTHIC. In the middle of the song we have a marvellous guitar solo.

Icon is such a solid album but not in the way of being plane and lineal but as a global piece. All the songs are good in here. Some of them sound heavy others more gothic. Good example of this is how different are tracks like “Forging Sympathy” plenty of good riffs and next song “Joys of the Emptiness” witch is so slow and doom. But more than talking track by track what’s most important for the reader is to know that the whole album has a captivating atmosphere that makes you enjoy every minute.

Everytime that nowadays I listen to this album I have that kind of nostalgic feeling about what good old days this band have had in the past. ICON is definitely one of the best albums of the last decade.

Highlights: Embers Fire, Colossal Rains, True Belief , Joys of the Emptines......

Crafty and intricate - 100%

grimdoom, September 8th, 2007

On ‘Icon’ we hear Paradise Lost furthering their already outstanding Doomdeath Metal sound. The production is a step up from anything they had done to this point and the song writing is as well. There aren’t as many solos as there were on ‘Shades of God’ but the solos contained within are amazing.

Greg really outdoes himself especially on the opening track ‘Embers Fire’ as it has a tapping solo in it that utilizes several different tapping styles, also great usage of a wah pedal (on this song and the whole album in general). Over all the guitars are heavy and melancholic. On this release we hear the band refine the sound they created with ‘Gothic’. There are some really interesting leads on here as well.

The bass isn’t stellar but it does follow the drums that are particularly creative given the unique song structures provided by Greg and Aaron. The vocals are a slight departure from the bands prior releases (which seem to get lighter/heavier on every progressive release). They are gruff, perhaps more along the lines of a Deathlier Thrash act. These vocals are/were rather raw in a live atmosphere (see Harmony Breaks and/or Evolve DVD). The lyrics are still fairly poetic and over all the songs don’t drag.

This is the album that starts to utilize the verse chorus verse formula. Prior to this they had merely been toying with it. This album musically has more in regards to that style than the actual lyrics.

This is arguably their darkest effort to date. The moods contained within evoke thoughts and images of loss and despair. This is a good starting point for someone new to the Doomdeath style of Metal and Paradise Lost in general.

I miss your growls, Nick - 71%

CannibalCorpse, June 9th, 2006

I've never seen Paradise Lost as an amazing Doom or Gothic act. They surely were one of the most important figures in these genres, but they surely weren't the best.
I enjoyed their "Gothic" album quite a bit, it was very good Doom/Death with a few flaws, mainly concerning the production.

"Icon" is the second album I got and I am somewhat disappointed. From what I've heard, it was supposed to be superior to "Gothic" but the only thing that is superior is the production. I guess that "Icon" was just not able to stand the test of time. So many Gothic Metal bands sound similar to this one that practically nothing stands out (except for the great leads, courtesy of Gregor Mackintosh, but we'll get into them later)

"Icon" is a lot more accessible than it's three predecessors, part of that is of course the good production on this one. It's crystal clear, but also misses a particular edge that was apparent on "Gothic". Paradise Lost decided to include Gothic elements into their music, which replace about 95% of the former Death Metal riffing and Nick's growls are completely gone. He has a raspy voice from time to time, but he never exceeds a certain level of aggression. His growls did fit very well into Paradise Lost's music on "Gothic" and I'm sure they'd have worked here as well. I personally think that Nick's vocals here are not great at all. I agree with what others say, he sounds like James Hetfield at times, just a bit more nasal and without the crappy pronounciation (Taaaaaaake my HAAAAAAAAAIND). Sometimes, Nick's even slightly out of tune with the music, but overall it's just a painfully average performance.

Rhythm guitars were never a strong point in Paradise Lost's career (listening to Mourning Beloveth to see how rhythm is supposed to be done) but Gregor's leads are excellent once again. They were the best part on "Gothic" and they totally save this album. Without these leads, I doubt I'd give them ANY listens. Gregor's best lead guitar lines are still in "Angel Tears" from their second album, but on overall quality, "Icon" takes the cake. Kudos to Mr. Mackintosh, he did a great job.

The drumming is absolutely standard, with no particular exceptions. It's just..there. I have no beef with it though, it fits the style.

Standard. That's the main problem of this album. Sure, it was released in 1993, where albums in that style were scarce, but classic albums are supposed to stand the test of time, and this one surely doesn't.

I can see where all the praise comes from, but "Icon" just doesn't quite do it for me.

Highlights: "Embers Fire", "Joys of the Emptiness"

Amazing band. Icon = even better!!! - 96%

WitheringToSerenity, May 25th, 2004

This is the album where Paradise Lost put it all together. Fully transformed from there death/doom style and adapted more of a doom meets hits heavy metal formula with hints of gothic influence here and there. The vocals from Nick Holmes are in my opinion easily the best he has ever done. Vaguely reminiscent of James Hetfield, but in a darker tone and not nearly as aggressive. Gregor Mckintosh's lead guitar are also amazing on this album. Not only the best on this album, but one of the most impressive performances I have had the pleasure of hearing on guitar. As stated before, this is the type of showing that could easily influence tons of guitarists for years to come. The rhythm section is stable although not outstanding as always for Paradise Lost. They might have benefitted from a full time drummer/bassist because the fills seem a little empty at times but that isn't what makes this album so damn amazing.

One of the things so easily noticable other than the underrated lead guitars would be the consistency and variety of tracks on Icon. Every track is excellent and with tracks like True Belief, Colossal Rains, Christendom and more you shouldn't think this album is that repetitive. What also remains the same is that Paradise Lost continues with an onslaught of kickass metal. I could go on how each track has a slow/mid tempo of tight metal riffs, memorable leads and well done vocals but the album speaks for itself. In my opinion this is not only a landmark album for Paradise Lost but metal in general. I would recommend anyone into any form of heavy metal music to check this album out if anything from Paradise Lost.

Favorite tracks: Embers Fire, Joys of The Emptiness, Colossal Rains, True Belief