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A chapter closes...another opens! - 83%

Cause of Death, April 30th, 2015
Written based on this version: 1992, CD, Music for Nations

It could be argued that Paradise Lost's "Shades of God" is a more "prim and proper" version of it's predecessor, 1991's "Gothic". For those who haven't been paying attention, "Gothic" is a death metal masterpiece that infuses elements of death-doom with female vocals, keyboards, and even a prominent goth rock influence on a couple tracks. Through it all, however, it was still a death metal record. Even it's most melodic and somber moments retained a semblance of grit and dirt that could be traced back to death metal. Things aren't so clear with that album's followup, though. This album was the end of Paradise Lost's death-doom trilogy, and by this point the band was already exhibiting a great deal of the style they would later perfect on "Icon", making "Shades of God" a decent, yet somewhat awkward transitional album.

This album features a much cleaner production job, as well as somewhat more 'concise' and to-the-point songwriting on most of the tracks. Though the album is still heavily riff driven, rarely do the riffs feel particularly death metal, instead leaning closer to a very catchy doom metal sound. Really, throughout the whole album, "Daylight Torn" is the only track that really stands out as sounding particularly death metal (which is convenient, as it's the album's greatest track) in the riffing department, as it contains quite a few riffs that are a bit too heavy and brutal for the doom genre. Of course, it wouldn't be entirely accurate to call the album "pure doom", as the album does retain a slight edge and sense of aggression and melodicism in some of it's riffs that would sound strange and out of place if Messiah Marcolin tried to sing over them. This isn't a bad thing, though. The riffs are extremely catchy and powerful, with "No Forgiveness" packing a pretty decent punch, and "The Word Made Flesh" featuring some very impressive, extremely dark doom metal riffs. Then you have the goth rock-tendencies of "As I Die", a wonderful little track that puts a nice little cap on the whole experience (the song could be seen as the successor to "Eternal" from "Gothic"), there's no wonder it's one of (if not the) most famous Paradise Lost songs.

The thing that bears a closest resemblance to death metal are the vocals of Nick Holmes. He growls for basically the entire length of the CD, stopping only to deliver some clean vocals at the beginning of "Your Hand in Mine" (another standout track, by the way, with a very catchy chorus to boot!). However, a closer listen will reveal that changes have begun to take shape even there. His growls are not quite as harsh and full-bodied as they were on the previous album, occasionally going as far as to deliver some of the forgotten "melodic growl" style that was used by some early death/doom vocalists, notably Darren White of Anathema, and was completely raped and butchered by the vocalist of Pyogenesis (with hilarious results I might add - "Fade AWAYEEEE!!!"). To be honest, the vocals are probably the album's weakest point. While far from "bad", it genuinely feels like something is missing lacking from them, and it would have sounded better if he had just done the style from the previous albums.

But, history explains that Nick was merely experimenting with different vocal techniques after having trouble with his voice on tour for the previous albums, as well as attempting to add something "more" to the songs without totally abandoning his roots, and when taking that into consideration the vocals aren't a problem, really. The thing is, while this is a great album, it feels a bit awkward to me, in some ways (particularly tracks like "Crying for Eternity" which - despite the killer opening, goes on for way too fucking long!). I love "Lost Paradise" and "Gothic" to absolute, eternal death (I am a dedicated listener of almost all old school death metal), but I also really love the gothic/doom sound that would follow on "Icon" and "Draconian Times", it really appeals to me. All four albums are masterpieces of their respective genres. This album is sort of sandwiched in between, containing elements from both eras, but not really capturing the essence of what made either of them so great. As I've said a couple times by now, it's a transitional album, and while it's definitely essential in the collection of anyone who considers himself a Paradise Lost fan, I'd encourage people interested in checking them out to delve into "Gothic" and "Icon" first.