The tale of Paradise Lost’s career, in some respects, does not reflect well on their fans. After a few years and albums of steadily evolving their gothic/doom metal sound into the near perfection of Draconian Times, they then moved quickly into a more electronic realm – culminating with what was dubbed the “career suicide” of Host, where the band simply moved on, leaving behind most of their fans at this point who were expecting something more akin to previous, and incredibly found it so difficult to accept this so different new album.
Ironically, Host was not a bad album – but following that later albums all seemed somewhat…aimless. Caught between trying to please new and old fans, they seemed for some time to be pleasing no-one at all. At least, until the last (eponymous) album, where moves were made to kinda erase much of their recent history and bring guitars, electronics and more importantly a gothic grandeur back to their sound.
And while it worked in part, it again ran out of steam. So in 2007, where are we? Well, it seems that rewind of style has moved back to being somewhere just after the release of Draconian Times, with an album that from the very start seems very akin. The sweep and bombast of Never For The Damned is an effective opener, but even better is the fast-paced Gothic Rock of Ash & Debris, complete with choir-like backing vocals and a glorious, mournful bridge that you could almost see lighters being held-aloft for in the live environment. First single The Enemy (video) keeps the pace brisk, this time with highly effective female backing vocals, and a thumping breakdown that is light-years away from recent output where the guitar work has never really been at the forefront.
Praise Lamented Shade is every bit as dark as it’s title, with the first noticeable appearance of any electronics bubbling under the surface, while Requiem‘s growling vocals and chugging guitars (by far the heaviest track on the album) are another album high-point. Unreachable has the feel of something a little more recent than the overriding feel of the album, and so somehow, despite it’s quality, feels a little out of place. Prelude to Descent gets things back on track, a slow, doomy track that has the umpteenth sing-a-long chorus on the album. Fallen Children is somewhat unremarkable, sounding somewhat half-arsed and ending up as one of the few “filler” tracks that exist on here.
Much, much better is Beneath Black Skies, probably the highlight of the entire album. Beginning with a gentle, piano-based intro, before the tempo kicks up a gear step-by-step into a massive, raging chorus – indeed this is probably PL’s best moment full-stop in about ten years. The track that follows it, Sedative God, is another retro-tastic track full of warm keyboard sweeps that seep into every conceivable gap behind the band. Closer Your Own Reality is again a little unremarkable after this, a string-filled lament that peters out somewhat.
The bonus tracks on the (velvet effect-covered black box!) limited edition deserve mention, if only for the spectacularly strange cover of Everything But The Girl‘s Missing – a brave move indeed to turn something so well-known into a gothic rock track. As to whether it works? Well, I never really liked the original, and this version doesn’t change my opinion. Much better is the other bonus, Silent In Heart – so good, in fact, that it really should have replaced one of the lesser tracks on the album proper.
So even though it isn’t perfect, PL have made it perfectly clear now that they are returning to the realms of Goth, after many years of that emphasis taking something of a back seat. They always had the tunes somewhere, it was often the arrangements that weren’t up to scratch. Now they have both, and they sound more confident. Ignore previous false dawns of a revival of this band, this really is it – let’s hope the fans from before will be willing to take another look.