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Shades of quality - 77%

Jophelerx, January 10th, 2014

Paradise Lost, if you're here and somehow don't know, were a member of the Peaceville three, the trio that is most often credited with starting death/doom. The first two albums from all three bands (Paradise Lost, Anathema, and My Dying Bride) are clearly some variant of death/doom, but after that they start to venture off into different directions. Anathema almost immediately went in an alt-rock direction, which is fine by me since their death/doom albums sucked just as much balls as their later releases. My Dying Bride went into a more mournful, symphonic doom direction, while Paradise Lost gradually began gravitating towards a lighter, less DM-influenced sound, but much more slowly than Anathema did. Really, Paradise Lost began doing this after the debut, not after 1991's Gothic. Lost Paradise was primarily DM with a strong helping of doom, then Gothic toned down the death metal a bit so both doom and death influences were roughly equal. It was definitely a departure from the debut, but not nearly as much as Shades of God was. Gothic still featured guttural growls from Holmes, a strong death metal influence, and the occasional female vocal, while Shades is an almost entirely different beast.

Here, Holmes gets rid of the guttural growling in favor of a gruff, manic bark with some deep, somber cleans at times as well. The death metal influence is dialed back to the point that I'd pretty much call this pure doom, with just the occasional death metal influence popping in. This was my introduction to the band, and I first heard the album after someone mentioned it was similar to Tiamat's Clouds, which I'd already been into. While there are several differences between the albums, they're fundamentally quite similar; both feature doom with yelled vocals and some death metal influence; I'd say Clouds has a bit more of that last, but as I said, they're still pretty similar. What's interesting is that both were released at roughly the same time (Clouds was a month and a half later), so there's no way either one could have influenced the other. They're just two bands, both releasing their third album, both with debut albums primarily death metal and sophomore albums with a significant doom influence. The similarities are interesting, but apparently coincidental. Tiamat seemed to be abandoning their death metal roots more slowly, yet their very next album was extremely atmospheric, with a lot of non-metal influences, while Paradise Lost's next album would still be solidly in the metal camp. Tiamat seemed to have a sudden shift after Clouds, while Paradise Lost seemed to be going at roughly the same rate towards a lighter sound.

Anyway, to the music itself. Holmes' delivery here isn't a whole lot like any of his contemporaries that I can think of - or even many vocalists who came after. His style is fairly unusual, especially for this style of music, with a deep, bellowing yell that resembles a bark but never becomes a growl. Death/doom tends to utilize gutturals more often than not, with occasional cleans, while traditional doom is usually cleans, and gothic metal is usually either "beauty and the beast" style, or one of the two by themselves (sweet ethereal female vocals or male gutturals). The closest thing I can think of is Peter Steele's yells in Type O Negative and Johan Edlund's on Tiamat's Clouds and Wildhoney.

The songwriting is a mournful, rocking brand of doom that's probably closest to traditional doom but doesn't really sound that similar; the death metal and goth rock influences and the harsh yells distinguish it pretty easily, as does the guitar style. Dual leads come together to make things sound even more crushingly depressing, a style that would later be used in funeral doom pretty regularly. I guess I could almost call this a combination of funeral doom and goth rock, even though the former didn't officially exist as of the time of this release. The extremely gloomy, hopeless and crushing style of doom combined with catchy, rocking riffs and (somewhat) accessible vocals make for an interesting juxtaposition that I quite like for the most part. The songwriting isn't extremely consistent, but given the groundbreaking nature of the release, that's not surprising. "As I Die" is a pretty banal goth rock-y track, while "Crying For Eternity" and "No Forgiveness" are bloated funeral doom-ish tunes of the extra-boring variety.

When the influences come together, though, the album really shines; "Mortals Watch the Day" combines aggressive death metal-ish verse riffs with a doomy chorus and solo, topped by some unusual, rock-y leads that sound like they could have come from Gothic, and Holmes' unforgettable performance. "Daylight Torn" and "Pity the Sadness" do a similarly great job of turning the churning cauldron of varied influences into cohesive masterpieces, while "Your Hand in Mine" leans more on the doom aspects of the album and "The Word Made Flesh" seems a little more death influenced than the other songs. Both are good, but not as excellent nor as seamless as the three aforementioned tracks. While, overall, I'm not sure what I think of the band's decision to great progressively less "extreme", I definitely like some of what came of it along the way, particularly this album and its follow-up, Icon. This amalgamation of traditional doom, goth rock, death metal, and other even more subtle influences (I hear some thrash here and there, and who knows where he decided on his vocal performance) was completely unique for the time, and, for the most part, still is. If this sound intrigues you or you're a fan of one or more of the styles involved, definitely check this out.