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The caterpillar before the butterfly - 78%

Gutterscream, March 25th, 2006
Written based on this version: 1990, Cassette, Peaceville Records

“…attempts at speech are drowned in laughter…”

At one time Paradise Lost could’ve been mistaken for Autopsy, albeit a less cantankerous and grimy one. Riffs grind and groan, vocals growl, production lays there stark naked and raw – a formula as frill-less as it is formless, the record itself rapt in an aura of desolation that has the structure of something skeletal, like an old unfinished building or the woods in winter. Lead-footed compared to the surrealistic eye of follow-up Gothic, the only primordial taste of that lp’s dignity lies in the supra-fleeting and emaciated female vox in the otherwise brooding “Breeding Fear”. But now I’m getting ahead of the debut and myself. It wasn’t writing on the wall that this British quintet would embellish their tetchy death/doom style with things that go atmospheric in the night, but if they had stayed with this credo for one or two more lps they would’ve probably died the nearly unremembered death of Winter and Disembowelment.

What’s going on here is respectably unglamorous and touched with shame, pitiless with a Neanderthal mindedness of cooking rats over an open fire because that’s all that’s available. With seldom anything distinguishable separating these tracks, the album is like a slab of aged meat that consists of one large tendon and nothing else. Before you know it the infernal intro, a pretty meaningless trek through thick audio gruel that barely insinuates at the telling of Milton’s vision, propels baleful “Deadly Inner Sense”, putridly melodic “Paradise Lost”, and half pedestrian-half intrepid “Our Savior” into end-of-side-one silence in what seems like mere moments, an antipode to the album’s for the most part crawl-along momentum. Inexpressively darting keyboards flit like a gnat in side two’s droning opener “Rotting Misery” while “Frozen Illusion” promises possible chaos with electrified solos managing to claw at its sludge-filled walls. Luckily, side two doesn’t fly by as fast, its slow lumbering clamber tripped up by the more soothing drear of the short title instrumental and “Internal Torment II”’s more inventive and rushed rhythmic discharge to close the disc.

But humble beginnings aren’t supposed to shed light like a beacon. If a band’s lucky, it’s illuminating something possibly evidential or even prophetic, but nothing too vast, and later we may become endeared to these early stages in pretty clear hindsight. So while this may be the old coat way in the back of Paradise Lost’s closet, it’s still the caterpillar before the butterfly.

“…and the madman speaks…listen with awe at the lies he’ll preach…”