Paradise Lost // Tragic Idol
Rating: 3.5/5.0 — Wait, didn’t you guys sound like Sisters of Mercy?
Label: Century Media
Websites: paradiselost.co.uk
Release Dates: US: 04.24.2012 | EU: 2012.04.23

Paradise Lost - Tragic IdolWell, well, well, if it isn’t Paradise Lost. This band is a reviewer’s wet dream, simply by virtue of all the weird shit they’ve pulled over the years. Starting out as one of the pioneers of death/doom metal in 1990, the band mutated into a sort of gothic hard rock/metal, before suddenly turning into Depeche Mode towards the end of that decade. Eventually, they saw the error of their ways, and since 2005’s self-titled album, have been releasing some of the heaviest music of their career. Their new album Tragic Idol continues this trend, channeling the band’s earliest, doomiest elements through the filter of their present-day abilities.

Not surprisingly, Tragic Idol pretty much picks up where their last album Faith Divides Us… Death Unites Us left off. As though making up for lost time, the band is trying to pack as much crushing doom metal as possible into one album. “Honesty in Death,” “Fear of Impending Hell” (great title), and the title track are all the type of song that Paradise Lost has excelled at writing over the past few albums: heavy but with melody and hooks, and weighted down with oppressive negativity. Guitarist Gregor Mackintosh’s Vallenfyre project from last year seems to have awakened some old-school death metal influences here, and brought Paradise Lost back to their roots somewhat.

Nick Holmes’ lyrics seem to be more fixated on death than usual on this record, and not the cartoon grim reaper that inhabits most metal songs either. No, this is Death with a capital D, the one that strikes fear in grown men, that inspires deathbed confessions and last-minute declarations of faith. The subject matter is not pretty, and Holmes rises to the occasion with his ugliest, crustiest vocal performance since Icon. Mackintosh remains the Dave Gilmour of doom metal, accomplishing more with one note than most shredders will accomplish in a lifetime [So fucking true. — AMG]. This guy is truly one of the unsung heroes of the genre, and metal in general.  Oh, and Adrian Erlandsson (ex-At The Gates) is the new drummer on this album, and although most of his skills are completely useless in a band like this, he still sounds good.

Paradise Lost 2012Oddly enough, the heaviest tracks here seem a little forced, as though they’re trying too hard to prove that they’re still the band that made Gothic or whatever, when they obviously aren’t. The lengthy doom section of “To the Darkness” is a perfect example: It’s heavy as hell, and probably exactly what their fans want to hear from them. However, it’s also completely disingenuous, coming from a band that sounded exactly like Sisters of Mercy not that long ago.

I guess my main issue with Tragic Idol is the same problem I had with Faith Divides Us: the sound. Don’t get me wrong, producer/mixer Jens Bogren has more than proven that he’s capable of making great-sounding records (see Opeth, Ghost Reveries). But Paradise Lost is one of those bands that needs some dynamics in the mix, some peaks and valleys to help out the flow of the songs, and that has never been Bogren’s thing. This album sounds fucking gigantic, but it lacks the atmosphere necessary to make Paradise Lost’s music work [Damn you Volume Wars!!! – AMG].

Of course, any verdict on this album depends on which version of Paradise Lost you were hoping would show up (for the record, I was pulling for the version that made Draconian Times). For those of you who preferred the crushing death/doom of the first few albums, this might be for you. As for everyone else, just wait for their next one, because there’s no telling what they’ll do…

 

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  • MikkoKukkonen

    I’ve enjoyed almost every incarnation of Paradise Lost to this day and One Second is actually one of my favorite albums from them. I could immerse myself totally, while listening to Faith Divides Us… and have been waiting for this one with baited breath.

    I have only just listened to Honesty In Death and having liked that song, I have great expectations for the whole album. I don’t consider myself a fanboy of the band, but I admit that there has always been that ‘something’ in PLost, that clouds my judgement and in my eyes they can pretty much do no wrong.

    • Fisting_Andrew_Golota

      I wasn’t necessarily making fun of their ’90s albums, just trying to make a point. I actually really like parts of “One Second.” If you enjoyed “Faith Divides Us…”, you’ll probably like this new one too.

  • I’m enjoying this one more than any since Draconian Times. Good stuff!

  • Nail on the head about the production. There’s layers and depth in the Icon/Draconian Times era that let the music exhale and echo like it’s played in a huge cathedral. This album (which I still am very high on) and especially “Death Unites Us…” don’t have, what I feel is the necessary “space” for their sound. (additionally, the “Death Unites Us..” stuff sounds SO much better live – because the sound isn’t all crushed together, it breathes – see the live DVD clips on YouTube). Extra nail on the head for the Erlandsson comment too. Spot on.

    I still like this a lot, like a lot, though. PL has always been one of my favorites (even through the Depeche Sister of Mode phase they went through).

    Honest, accurate review though. I’d just disagree a bit with the “disingenuous” comment – but that’s just personal taste/opinion I guess.

    • Fisting_Andrew_Golota

      I’m glad it wasn’t just me thinking that about the production. Even more recent stuff like “In Requiem” and the self-titled album seemed much better in that department. The “Death Unites Us” stuff did sound killer on their live DVD, as did the 90’s/techno stuff.

      •  I actually couldn’t quite put my finger on I why I always felt a bit detached from “Death Unites Us” and then when you mentioned the production and the atmosphere I almost yelled out “THAT’S IT!” as I was reading your review. So for that revelation alone I’m indebted to you – it allows me to finally fully process my opinion of that album.

        • Fisting_Andrew_Golota

          I accept PayPal and most major credit cards.

          • it seems i’m the only one who actually likes Bogren’s claustrophobic production! ;)

          • Talvalin

            It’s not just you. Something as airily melodic as “Hallowed Land” with that production would sound weird, but the last couple of albums have been more oppressive in nature and the production suits that to a tee.

          • Fisting_Andrew_Golota

            Well, sort of. I think their heavy stuff always sounds crushing, regardless of the production. But the more ‘song’-type songs still need that atmosphere. There’s at least 3 or 4 songs off the new record that would benefit from Draconian Times/Icon-era production.

  • I just bought the album today and gave it a good first listen while driving. The last three albums have = perfection for me so I have no complaints about this one as it fits right in with the others. This album will be listened to ‘ad nauseum’ in my iPod for the foreseeable future. I don’t take any issue with PL’s production but to each his own. Great review and as always your honesty no BS approach is much appreciated m/

  • I’m a fan of this record. I think it’s really solid. I think it’s reasonable to sort of question these bands that have come back around to their “roots” so to speak. But let’s be honest, here, sometimes you do something and get sick of it… but I think that we *all* come back around to what we were doing before and see why it was good. That Paradise Lost is in a position to go back and make up for “lost time” so to speak, is just that… they were in a position to do it. More power to ’em, says I.

    • and this is much truer because they didn’t simply and abruptly come back to their early sound after believe in nothing… every album since then was a step towards a more “orthodox” metal sound (not necessairily heavier, symbol of life is heavy as fu*k, but it still was built on rock song structures), merging it with all they’ve learned from their incursion in goth-wave… i call it evolution!

  • My only gripe with the album is that is too much alike of the Faith divide us… stuff. Not necessarily a bad thing in itself, since I loved that record espite being one of the people that dislike the production. The two orchestral versions that were on the end of the Special Edition that I own were much better sounding thanks to that breathing space you speak, that was given to them.

    Despite those two things, I’m enjoying this record, even when I don’t think I will be replaying it a lot past this month.

  • oh man if i’m a PL fanboy! i’m trying to be as objective as possible but it turns out to be simply impossible… i love EVERY single thing these guys made since Lost Paradise… and this is no exception!

  • Helen Diener

    Paradise Lost have lost their sense of melody. There are about three songs on this album and then there is a lot of songs where they are just practising being heavy. The Gothic atmosphere has long since gone to be replaced by a 1990 metal album with a 2012 production. It sounds dated to me. This is definitely not Draconian times. Draconian Times was heavy but it was very melodic and tuneful with sing along songs. It was also very atmospheric. This album is just misery and heavyness with no sense of atmosphere or melody. I am all for heavyness as long as there is a song attached to it. Personally Paradise Lost have been sliding for years. The strong songs that they once had have now been replaced by Gregor in a panic that he is not being “heavy enough” for the kids. Its all too forced. Dont worry guys you are still heavy but the songs are not there anymore. Honesty in death!

    • Strange, I always thought that song-writting was one of their greatest skills. Perhaps there is some kind of diversion onto a more homogenized sound with this album but listening to it for the first time is not enough to form an opinion. But the stuff on this album seem less diverse, lets keep it at that. Perhaps they need to go back and start experimenting again?