Century Media (2012)
Go to a run through the band's musical history here
Go directly to the review here...
It has been an interesting journey for these British gothic doomsters. Starting out as a run of the mill death metal outfit where, nevertheless, the signature melodic tendencies of Greg Mackintosh are audible if by no means dominant on their debut “Lost Paradise”, Paradise Lost established a new subgenre in heavy metal, gothic metal, with the appropriately named “Gothic”. Here, though still very strong, death metal riffs give way to melodies that can only be described as pure Paradise Lost.
Subsequent releases, 1992 “Shades of God” and the landmark and arguably bands magnum opus, “Icon” saw them completely ditch the death metal of yore and pen some purely heavy metal songs which occasionally reach for, but never touch, thrash metal. “Draconian Times”, by many considered their best effort, solidified the bands signature sound... from which they would depart on the next, very gothic but not so much heavy metal “One Second”.
Already “Draconian Times” signaled their fascination with Depeche Mode, but “One Second” took it even further. It appeared Paradise Lost was shaking off the heavy metal armor. To confirm this suspicion, the next release, much maligned, yet still great offering, “Host”, where band members all except Greg sport short hair cuts, contained ZERO metal. In fact, Paradise Lost was practically indistinguishable from DM in every way. Greg always spoke highly of Depeche Mode's electro rock "Songs of Faith and Devotion" album and only a mere 4 years later this inspiration spilled into Paradise Lost's sound.
The band, while not ashamed of "Host" quickly abandoned that avenue and turned toward alternative rock on arguably their weakest effort "Believe in Nothing". From there, every subsequent album inched a little closer toward heavy metal, and while "Symbol of Life" and the self-titled were spotty in that department, “In Requiem" contained some of the heaviest tunes since “Draconian Times”.
Thus, the next album, the phenomenal "Faith Divides Us-Death Unites Us" was a full fledged heavy metal record that even borrowed from classic Opeth. While it did not quite reach the highs of "Icon”, the album did match the 1995 "Draconian Times" and even exceeded it in heaviness. Occasionally, though, Paradise Lost sounded as though they couldn’t quite make up their mind to let go off inhibitions concerning how metal they wanted to be. The hesitation must have been abandoned with the unexpected release from Greg's new death doom project Vallenfyre and the excellent "A Fragile King". In my review (read here) I expressed an expectation that "fyre" will catch onto the next Paradise Lost album. And to a great extent I was right.
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With the exception of one solid, but a little underwhelming song, "Crucify", owing to the rather generic verse riff despite fantastic melody, "Tragic Idol" is Paradise Lost straight from "Icon", complete with a variety the likes of which they did not present since 1997. The opener, "Solitary One" cuts right from the start with an ultra heavy gigantic riff that brutally announces that era of soft polished rock albums is definitely over. And then a melancholic guitar straight from "Gothic" sets the stage for an excellent track that shows how comfortable Paradise Lost is in their old shoes again.
The notion is doubted, however, with the aforementioned "Crucify", by no means a bad track overall, but a little below Paradise Lost's high standard. It resembles "Hallowed Land" from "Draconian Times" but does not quite match it in excellence. The doubts are quickly abandoned with the Katatonian sounding (both bands often "borrowed" from each other) "Fear of the Impending Hell", with one of the best lyrics on the album about a feeling we all get sometime. The song does have a death metal beginning but merely for a few seconds and it does not take away from any part of one of the best tracks on the album.
The subsequent "Honesty in Death" is easily one of the best songs PL ever created and the guys seemed to have picked the best composition for the creepy and severely depressing video. This song is just supremely perfect with so much awesome melody through the verse and the chorus that it becomes my favorite track on the record. Now the band unfurls fully, and tracks 5-7 are some of the most aggressive almost death metal sounding tracks ever written by them, which rival anything on "Icon" for intensity. In fact, "In This We Dwell" vocally and musically brings to mind Vader as Nick sounds exactly like Peter Wiwczarek with some of the most intense vocals since "Shades of God". Long story short - he almost growls! And the riff in the mid-verse is simply death metal, period. A separate accolade is due to Paradise Lost's frontman for the vocal work - vocally, this album is his finest hour, supreme in variety, intensity and execution. The aforementioned three tracks are also fast with occasional slow riff in the middle. It is no less but a spillover from Vallenfyre, an excellent transition without repeating of ideas.
And all that time Greg continues to flagellate with his utterly devastating melodies. Paradise Lost, even at its most aggressive, remains very melodic. Too bad Greg did not provide a few growls himself here, but it’s a minor gripe as the musical quality more than makes up for it. The title track has THE best melody on the entire album, too bad it’s used so sparingly throughout. But the entire song, though much softer than predecessors, is also excellent and it is a nod toward the post-"Icon"-ep "Seals the Sense" and the supreme "Sweetness". The next song is solid but not nearly as exciting, but the closer is again a masterful stroke with a depression level turned up extreme once again. This one reminds me strongly of "Draconian Times" closer, "Jaded", but unlike it, it ends with a screeching slide off the strings.
With "Tragic Idol", Paradise Lost finally matches its masterpiece "Icon", while, overall, surpassing "Draconian Times". While surpassing "Icon" is still out of reach for this supremely talented and skilled outfit, this album raises the bar so that perhaps the next album will accomplish what this one set out to do and almost succeeds at.
Rating: 5.5 / 6
Composed by Dethster4life
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