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Groovin' n' Gloomin' - 90%

finbar, April 8th, 2018
Written based on this version: 1992, CD, Music for Nations

A year after the release of Gothic, Paradise Lost released this peculiar album which not only showcased the band's improved musical abilities and a more polished production, but also marked a significant stylistic departure from their sophomore effort. Whereas Gothic utilized female vocals and orchestral sections to create it's unique atmosphere, Shades of God is driven first and foremost by multitudes of grinding, doomy riffs and Gregor Mackintosh's sorrowful leads. The album is mostly comprised of multi-sectional songs with crawling riffs, moody passages and lengthy guitar solos with one glaring exception in the form of album closer As I Die, a more straightforward track that has the feel of a gothic rock song with crunchier rhythm guitars and harsher vocals. The direct songwriting approach on the album finale proved to be a foreshadowing of the style displayed on many of the following PL albums.

When looking at the album highlights, one can't help but notice just how diverse this album is. It may not be an avantgarde release that goes from Balkan-inspired folk sections to blasting death metal with industrial overtones, but the variety of riffs, interludes, tempo changes, guitar solos and overall moods is quite astounding. Mortals Watch The Day remains one of PL's strongest songs to date, in large part due to Nick's strong vocal performance and the perfect flow from the up-tempo sections to the slower ones. The song also boasts an incredible chorus and very convincing wah-soaked lead guitar work. Daylight Torn and Your Hand In Mine are two tortured epic tracks that showcase the band's ability to create and perform a long track without losing focus or steam. The former even includes a tastefully-done acoustic guitar interlude that serves as a build-up to another wailing guitar solo. Pity The Sadness is an energetic and infectious live staple that spices things up by intertwining the vocal lines with the guitar leads in a way that gives the song an irresistible flow. The Word Made Flesh is a menacing groove monster that contains some strong Sabbath-styled riffing and the first and only appearance of a cowbell (YES!) in a PL song. There are a few weaker tracks such as Embraced and Crying For Eternity, both of whom are a bit forgettable and drag the album down after the incredible opener.

Shades Of God feels like an upward-mobile transitional effort. The band sounds tighter, the production values are much improved and there's an overall feeling of a hungry band looking to grow and create it's unique sonic signature (again). Although the album is dragged down a bit by two adjacent fillers and can be a bit overlong at times, it's quality is undeniable. A fascinating phase in PL's discography that continues to feel fresh with each listen.