Once upon a time, England’s doom/death saints Paradise Lost were poised to become their country’s (and even their continent’s) answer to the mighty Metallica. Going from the atonal death/doom of their humble beginnings to their more streamlined sound, the West Yorkshire quintet were on the cusp of breaking big after the impact of 1993’s Icon and 1995’s powerful Yer Metal is Olde-inductee, Draconian Times. Seeing their star on the rise, Paradise Lost did what any self-respecting metal band would do: they got haircuts, abandoned the doom metal they were most known for and loved, and jumped on the Depeche Mode wagon. In other words, they were ready to explore new horizons, and fans be damned if they have a problem with a band wanting to go more of a dancy Gothic route than, well, Gothic. Part 90s Metal Weirdness, part Indefensible Position, but definitely a worthy Yer Metal is Olde induction, this is Paradise Lost‘s crimson-headed, Doc Marten-booted stepchild, 1997’s One Second.
Sure, haircuts and image upheavals were a big deal back in the 90s, as more and more bands felt the crushing weight of metal being pushed aside for instant gratifcation. Also gone were the colorful paintings that adorned their albums, and in their place was the face of an elderly woman, aged and weathered by time and hardship, further accentuating the concept of how things could change in just one second. Many a metalhead shrieked at the thought that the very men who crafted classics like “Embers Fire” and “Hallowed Land” could do such an about face, turning away from a style many loved and cherished. It was truly their loss, though. One Second contained some of the band’s strongest material at the time, and remains one of the best gems in their nearly 30-year tenure.
Sure, Nick Holmes’ singing voice wasn’t particularly strong at the time, and Gregor Mackintosh’s mournful leads were replaced by synths and programmed melodies. Give a listen to the album’s first four songs, however, and tell me with a straight face that they’re not some of the most enduring songs they’ve written. The opening title track, with its now-iconic piano melody, could have easily sat within Draconian Time‘s tracklist with no problem. Breakout single “Say Just Words” still goes down well in a live setting, containing one of the band’s most infectious choruses penned to date. Elsewhere, “Mercy”‘s infectious hooks and memorable chorus lingers with you long after the song’s duration expires. Sure, One Second was marginally metal, but the mood and somber atmosphere remained, even if acquired a good beat that you could dance to.
The lyrics also took a major departure from the religious imagery of the band’s past, concentrating more on the downtrodden, personal problems of modern times. “Lydia” tells the story of a prostitute, and her need to fake a smile to keep her Johns happy (“All lowest forms of life are pounding you inside/Your hollow cold display, your tired masquerade”). As stated before, “One Second” recalls how life can change for the better or worse in that time frame, and how we should count the blessings that we have at that moment. Most haunting though is the subject matter of “Another Day,” which somehow tactfully recalls the memories of a school shooting, with a powerful chorus and a beautiful guitar and keyboard outro that lingers and moves you well after the song ends.
The decision to move from longtime producer Simon Efemey to Ulf “Sank” Sandqvist was also controversial, and yet rewarding. Not once do the album’s metallic moments, few as they are, feel sterilized and watered down in favor of the electronica. The guitars cut with power, the drums and bass can be heard and felt, and the electronic elements mesh beautifully with the band’s sound and agenda. Sure, there are some clunkers on One Second, but they’re no worse than the clunkers found on their other albums. They just happened to have dance beats to them this time around.
Sadly, this would be the last Paradise Lost album that I would buy until they signed to Century Media years later with their release of 2007’s In Requiem.1 But in changing styles and testing the waters, they’ve also painted with a broader color scheme that the band never experienced before. Having made the full circle back to gothic doom, and on to their death/doom roots, Paradise Lost can proudly proclaim that they can follow their own muse with success, and we all owe the controversial-yet-awesome One Second for that. While it may not be the most metal of their collection, it’s easily among the most somber, melancholic material the band has penned, as well as a personal favorite album of mine. For that, I’m proud to induct it into our Yer Metal is Olde Hall of Fame.