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