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Paradise Lost - Shades of God - 63%

EschatonOmega, March 15th, 2014

When it comes to PL albums, I always either take it or leave them. I’ve never been blown away by any of their material, but I’ve liked a few of their albums enough to be willing the shell out the hard earned crash to own a few of them. I mean their most recent three releases (“In Requiem”, “Faith Divides Us – Death Unites Us”, “Tragic Idol”) where very solid albums and I enjoyed pretty thoroughly.
That being said, the vast majority of their discography usually teeters between, at best, pretty decent to, at worst, God awful, and while “Shades of God” is considered to be a fan favorite, I’ve always had a pretty middle of the road opinion on it. Don’t get me wrong, I actually do fairly enjoy this album, but it doesn’t measure up to hype at all and it suffers from a lot of faults that keep it from being memorable.

So for starters, let me address the sound that PL puts out. They are considered one of the pioneers of death/doom metal, with Anathema and My Dying Bride sharing that title, and with the band’s first two releases “Lost Paradise” and “Gothic” they embraced this style. It wasn’t until “Shades of God” that PL began their shift into the doom influenced brand of gothic metal that made its first real appearance on “Icon”. So here the death metal influence has been stripped down quite a bit and the gothic with the doom aspects tweaked to fit better with the gothic sound.

Instrumentally the album is much more aggressive and faster than the previous albums. And this brings me to something that I really love about this album and that is that the performance is excellent and it’s the musicianship that shines here. And it has a lot to do with this obvious passion from the members that is probably why I liked this album as much as I did, specifically with Gregor Mackintosh who delivers one mournful and epic riff after another. His performance is what sells the album for me, and the way he plays with Aaron Aedy is beautifully done.

Although when it does come to performance, it’s Nick Holmes who is the weakest link. His death growls on the death/doom era albums I always found mediocre and hard to listen to and it’s here, on this album, that he ditches that for the rougher James Hetfield-esque grunting that he would stick with. Although here it’s deeper and more like this throaty bark, and honestly it just sounds awkward. Sometimes he’ll break into a cleaner style of singing and in others he’ll go back into a more growl like style, but most of the time he does this throaty howl and as a whole, it not very pleasant and just sounds strained and uncomfortable. Out of the entire PL discography, this is Holmes’ worst performance, in my opinion.

Another problem that I have is that this album is a bit too long for its own good. It gets overbearing at times and a lot of the longer songs (which is most of the track list) go on too long and as a result the album just drags. I usually really like long songs, but these tracks just don’t do enough for it to work here. They’re somewhat banal and don’t differ enough, in style or atmosphere, to have these six-seven minute tracks without them getting a bit boring.

There are also no real stand out tracks. And this is my biggest complaint about the album, that being that it, in the end, is not very memorable. As I said, the performance is great and the album has a lot of very smart and good ideas. Yet somehow, even with all of its good ideas, none of the songs ever sat with me. Instead they all just fall flat with no real reason to remember the songs as a whole.

So in short, why is this album a mixed bag? Like I said, it has a lot of good musicianship and really great ideas and on that level, I enjoyed listening to this. But that was it. The ideas expressed on the various songs but the album as a whole and just how it was all put together didn’t have a lot to offer and came across as too drawn out and underwhelming. It’s not a bad album by any means but it doesn’t live up to the hype and this band has put out a lot better work in my opinion.