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Paradise Lost | ‘Tragic Idol’

What do we do with the bands we love, knowing perhaps that they’ve gone a bit to seed?

It’s starting to creep in with alarming regularity. Some bands really are getting on. Double barrels of mortgage payments and creative drought are being stared down, and it’s becoming increasingly apparent with each album.

It’s happening to Paradise Lost, too, on this new album. And it’s hard to know how to feel about that.

It’s not like you can knock Paradise Lost, and nor should you. Even at half pelt they’re still… well, they’re Paradise Lost. For some people, such as myself, that’ll continue to be all the justificartion they’ll ever need. Yet it’s also necessary to call a spade a spade.

But let’s start at the start.

Without fear of contradiction, ‘The Solitary One’ is in every chord and sorrow filled lick vintage Paradise Lost. The guitar tone is arresting – it’s pure ‘Gothic’, in the way that Katatonia for so long tried to copy and which PL have never quite returned to.

The song itself is monumental, dripping pathos in the way that only Paradise Lost at their best can, with Nick’s brilliantly English refrain ‘I’m bleeding with the solitary one’ cutting right through the mix and leaving the deepest musical impression. It is easily worthy of their best ever material.

Yet this is where any greatness possessed of this album begins and ends – and it’s a shame. Because an album of tracks like that one would have been a tome for the ages. It isn’t to be.

‘Crucify’ is one of those moments where you know a band is trying to break the shackles of their past and has reached a certain desperation. It’s produced oddly differently from the rest of the album; the guitars are rougher, the approach is vaguely ‘slammin’ in a way that just does not suit the consummately austere and refined Paradise Lost, and the riff itself is basic, heard it before stuff.

‘Fear Of Impending Hell’ though is a real sticker. Not because it’s in any way superb, but because the chorus has been so well written that it’s hard to shake it from your brain. It’s far from a bad PL track, but lacks just a little invention – an odd realisation, because it’s so damn catchy.

‘Theories From Another World’ just doesn’t sound like PL. Again, the riff is somewhat retrograde, while the vocals sound like stock phrases from the bands familiar lexicon shouted out without thought or indeed much passion. It’s hard to maintain interest in this one.

And on it goes.

It’s odd – they’ve done a bit of a Katatonia, the band that once followed them so slavishly. By which I mean that across several decent and satisfying albums now, they’ve retreated into a format easily recognised as ‘theirs’, which has sadly become a bit too predictable.

A mite of ‘Icon’ is summoned with ‘To The Darkness’, but – once again – it’s just a shade underdeveloped and, one senses, half hearted. It’s PL by numbers.

Isn’t it sad that this needs to be the case, most especially after their absolute stormer of a self-titled comeback a mere seven years ago? The band are far from redundant (nowhere near it, in fact) and this is of course a deserving album from an institutional band. Yet it lacks diversity and meaning.

Would that every track on here were as good as the tragic, mournful brilliance of the opener. But they aren’t, and in fact they’re nowhere close. Yes, ‘To The Darkness’ ratchets up the energy a bit, and sounds like it will be fantastic live, but it’s not enough after an album of predictable, journeyman PL efforts.

My Dying Bride should hear this, and perhaps be grateful they’re keeping their heads down – because it’ll be their turn next.

One of the last tracks on this is called ‘Worth Fighting For’. Though too late to make a difference, it’s one of the only other truly great tracks on here. And in that there’s either a bitter irony or a last gasp of hope, depending on how much you’ve listened to Paradise Lost’s back catalogue.

2.8 / 5 – Earl Grey ::: 12/05/12

  1. Yikes. I’m actually loving this record. I think the last couple of albums have been solid stuff and this maintains that trek.

  2. Emphyrio Says:

    I’m pretty much in agreement with Jonk here. Thought Crucify was very PL by numbers when I heard it in advance of the albums release but in the context of the album works well enough even though I think its one of the lesser tracks on the album. It a lot more riff-based than gloomy I think, the lack of keyboards being the reason I guess. I think it’ll appeal to the Icon and earlier-phase fans.

    Would prefer if they came across more typically miserable PL but can’t dispute those riffs are feckin deadly

  3. Absolutely love the record, not a bad song on it, it takes a few listens and is defo not PL by numbers, it really is their best since Draconian for me, and I love some of that mid period stuff too. Certainly the best of the recent few albums. Cracker throughout. Give it more time!

  4. Stephen Ireland Says:

    You know that my opinion matters, and here it is. The album is great. I can’t believe the PL-by-numbers comments in the review. The songs hark back to the past, for sure, but they’re incredibly well-written and Greg’s leadwork is sumptuous throughout. Holmes’s vocals coupled with the searing leads in ‘The Glorious End’ is one of my favourite moments on the album, yet not even mentioned in the review?

  5. Miotal Trom Says:

    Dying to hear this. Is it really 7 years since PL? Holy shit!! The bits I have heard so far on youtube etc. are definitely the most promising bits and pieces I’ve heard from the band since DT, and as John said, I do like the other stuff since then, just not as much. Will be picking this up as soon as possible anyhoo and greatly looking forward to it.

  6. Lads – are we listening to the same thing? Best since Draconian Times!?

    There are class moments on this for sure, no doubt at all. But PL by numbers really is the only way to describe the vast majority of it. A shame, because as I say, tracks like ‘Solitary One’ are fantastic.

    It’s very, very samey.

  7. Best since Draconian Times is too far. But samey, no. I’d say a lot of these new songs would sound great live.

  8. got my hands on this, had a few listens, not at all bad, kind of lost interest in them when they released draconian times after the triumph that was and still is Icon. Fair enough album, nothing like their best, doubt it will be heavily rotated though, but definitely not offensively bad.

  9. Martin Wyer Says:

    Paradise Lost stopped being interesting a few albums ago now. In Requiem was the start of the rot for me. They sound utterly bored with themselves and have no idea what direction to go in. The cynic in me thinks it’s the direction the band feel will be most profitable at this stage.

    Of course they can still write a great hook here and there but their hearts are not in it. Paradise Lost have made plenty of classic “metal” albums in the past. I still love those records, but I also admired where they went after that, they made some challenging but entertaining albums and had matured accordingly post Draconian Times. It sounds like the last two albums were recorded on autopilot. The result is listen a couple of times, be mildly entertained, then file away for good. Give me Host/ Symbol of life over this stuff anyday.

  10. Tinnitus is indeed a terrible condition. The reviewer clearly has hearing difficulty.

    Paradise Lost will always remain a very controversial band – even when they try to please their fans by releasing an album
    like Tragic Idol that fans/crtics have plagued them for since Icon & Draconian Times – they are met with critiscim from every angle. PL could easily have produced a clone of the highly sucessful Draconain Times but instead decided to throw a curve ball and produce One Second & Host.

    I find it disheartening that real artists like PL do not get the praise they truly diserve, especially in the UK.
    Take one listen to “To The Darkness” – and tell me that it sounds like a band that is tired and predictable.

    Reviews like this can only help fuel their misery and darkenss – so bring it on – we may get another gem like this one.

  11. ^
    Completely agreed, I cannot for the life of me understand how someone can hear a tired, predictable band in this album. They have really excelled this time around and moved away from the orchstration/keyboards which they’ve used for yonks now and returned to an older style which seemed like it would never happen again when albums like Host, BiN etc. were released during a trough for the band creatively.

    Always a dull live band but this one is ignored to your loss.

  12. King Hostile Says:

    I really like this album and would agree that the last few albums have been class. Quite a musical journey. Miotal Trom 7 years since PL man its flown in! cool album. Defo worth the money.

  13. Ok just to clarify – in terms of the Paradise Lost of the modern era, my yardstick is the self titled. There’s not a dull moment on it, it’s full of Grade A material.

    In comparison, this just simply isn’t! The self titled flattens it.

    So I remain convinced. A few standouts here, yes, but overall it’s pedestrian.

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