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Try harder - 62%

colin040, June 12th, 2019

Partially a continuation of Faith Divides Us – Death Unites Us , as well as demonstrating some nods to the band’s classic era, Tragic Idol should have been rather enjoyable, yet it rarely knocks me over. Not even by the time this album dropped, I felt actual butterflies in my stomach (or perhaps those were just Chinese leftovers) that I’d normally experience by the time a new album of Paradise Lost came out.

Instead of bundling their strengths like Nick Holmes and Greg Macintosh did on Faith Divides Us – Death Unites Us , I can’t help but think that the two aren’t complementing each other on Tragic Idol. Greg certainly knows how to dominate thorough the record with his trademark skills but the songcraft is of mixed quality here – more than often Tragic Idol sounds just passable and I wouldn’t mind hearing it as background music – it just lacks the classic tracks one could find thorough Paradise Lost’s catalogue. It’s the by-the-numbers tunes that seriously make me wonder how much effort was put into them, because even the most nostalgic leads in ‘’Fear of Impending Hell’’ and ‘’The Glorious End’’ aren’t enough to make me revisit those tracks. ‘’Honesty in Death’’ resembles the Icon era of Paradise Lost – like a cross between ‘’Dying Freedom’’ and ‘’True Belief’’ where even Holmes sounds more grounded than he usually does on here. The title track features one of those explosive choruses the band aimed for during Draconian Times era, yet both of these tracks remind me more of how the band once sounded far superior then they do here.

It’s not all that bad however. ‘’Solitary One’’ is a dark crawling opener, not unlike ‘’As Horizons End’’ or ‘’First Light’’ where Holmes’ shouts echo in a maze of hopelessness and despair where there seems to be no way out from. I also enjoy the riff-centric ‘’In This we Dwell’’ which steps up the pacing and features a serious banger of a chorus. The gritty slashing guitar bits of ‘’Theories from Another World’’ sound seriously heavy and impressive, but sadly the vocals don’t match the intensity of the apocalyptic mood the track conveys, which brings me to another issue – Nick Holmes.

Instead of sounding like a wise man spitting out his anger about everything wrong with this world as Nick Holmes did on Faith Divides Us – Death Unites Us, here he sounds as if he has to stand on his toes to deliver and more than often the result is barely tolerable. Only ‘’To the Darkness’’ features one those gruff vocal attacks that left me actually impressed, which I wish he had kept for one of the more interesting tracks instead. On the other hand, Holmes’s cleans are still cleverly used – creating somber and thoughtful moods in a non-happy world Paradise Lost resides in.

In hindsight, I can’t wonder whether I’d enjoyed this more had it came out after In Requiem instead. This just doesn’t sound like a clear step forward and average at best, Tragic Idol has to be one of Paradise Lost’s most wishy-washy efforts. It’s like a group of experienced cooks using interesting ingredients and throwing them all into a huge blender and hoping it would work out. It just doesn't.