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Paradise Lost - Draconian Times

  by Russell Ferguson

published: 20 / 3 / 2011

Paradise Lost - Draconian Times
Label: Select Label
Format: N/A


Russell Ferguson examines the impact of goth/heavy metal rockers Paradise Lost's groundbreaking fifth album, 'Draconian Times', which has just been reissued as a double CD

As a youngster, I didn’t appreciate the impact that Elvis ‘The Pelvis’ had in his day. I thought it stupid and prudish though that on ‘The Ed Sullivan Show’ Elvis wasn’t allowed to be shown from the waist down, as apparently his pelvis would drive his female fans wild. I do, however, fully appreciate the shock waves that the Sex Pistols caused with their ‘Never Mind the Bollocks’ album. It cleared out a decade of nonsense, overblown and self-indulgent music. I dare say that there are many youngsters who really don’t understand what the Sex Pistols did for music. The post punk, indie, goth, thrash and nu-metal can all thank the punk movement for this change of attitude. In turn this created the birth of the DIY ethos of music and bands bypassing record labels. Before punk it just didn’t happen that a band went it alone and did things for themselves. It’s easy to forget the impact a record or band has when it is many years later. Very often it’s almost a generation later when musicians start to incite certain bands or records as being life changing. Paradise Lost consists of singer Nick Holmes, guitarists Greg Mackintosh and Adam Adey, bassist Steve Edmondson and drummer Matthew Archer, who formed the band in 1988 in Halifax, England. Their first 1990 album, ‘Lost Paradise’, is a very dark and doom laden affair, which sounds very much like many doom rock albums of the era also did. By the time they released their second album ‘Gothic’ a year later in 1991, Paradise Lost had already started to develop more of their own sound. There were less growling vocals and both more orchestral string sounds and female backing vocals. Their 1992 third album, ‘Shades of God’, had a similar sound to 'Gothic', just without the strings and backing vocals, and Nick Hudson had also begun to integrate clean melodies and quieter passages into the songs. ‘Icon’, their fourth album which came out in 1993, gained them a lot of attention among rock and metal fans alike. Some of their older fans were beginning to protest that the band had started to sell out and become more commercial, but the sound had more emphasis on a rock guitar sound similar to Metallica. By the time their fifth album, ‘Draconian Times’, was released in 1995, they already had a big fan base and a music media who were anticipating a follow up to ‘Icon’. ‘Draconian Times’ is often said to be the best album Paradise Lost ever released, edging in front of ‘Icon’. It is a very dark, heavy album. There are times when it comes across as stark and oppressive, but this is peppered with samples, which gives it a lift in places and more of a varied textre throughout. Many of the songs are played at a slower speed that you might expect, ‘Enchanted’ has a more plodding feel to it with shades of Rammstein laced in it with the backing vocals. ‘Hallowed Land’ again is slow-moving, but is lifted with a clean keyboard sound. Both ‘The Last Time’ and ‘Forever Failure’ are quicker and more upbeat, but still retain a deep and menacing sound to it, and for me these are the two highlights on the album. ‘Once Solemn’ has some great guitar work and has flashes of Killing Joke’s shuddering riffs, but that wall of impenetrable guitar relaxes at times to allow a few chords to surface through. ‘Shadow King’ again changes the pace of the album with some original opening riff work that again change into darker riffs once Hudson’s vocals kick in. The second half of the album is a lesser version of the first but it still has some highlights with ‘Shades Of God’ and ‘I See Your Face’. Much of the album has guitar work that sits between Metallica and Sisters Of Mercy with shades of Pantera here and there. The vocals are less grunting which makes it much easier to listen to, not that it is an easy album to listen to unless you’re a committed hardcore and metal fan. There are times when you can hear shades of other bands at work, Nine Inch Nails and Rammstein are the main ones, but you have to remember many of these bands had just formed, so it’s fair to say that Paradise Lost had an influence on many of the doom metal/goth bands that followed and what direction they would take in the future. The reason why ‘Draconian Times’ was so well received is that it came at a time when this kind of music has reached a wall, where they wasn’t much scope or originality left in this genre of music. Paradise Lost were always willing to try new things and experiment, which to their credit more often worked rather than failed. A lot of the strength of ‘Draconian Times’ comes from the fact that it doesn’t rely on a clichéd doom metal crunching sound, but has a more imaginative sound that makes it stand out from the herd. It doesn’t try to grab its listener by the throat. It is more seductive and persuasive than that. There is a lot of mood and emotion that comes with these songs. The re-released version of the album comes with a few extra demo versions of songs and live songs recorded when they toured with it. They don’t, however, add much to the whole sound. With the extra tracks it is more of the same, but they are just longer in most cases. I guess a few extras have to be added though to make it more appealing to those who may already have a copy of this. There are moments as well when it comes across as being a rock obsessed guitar work, which for me is just boring, but thankfully these moments are short-lived. This album came along at the right time for both band and fans alike. It helped to redefine what a genre should sound like. That is why it is often called their seminal album as it changed the direction of music from the day of its release. While not in the same status as Elvis or the Sex Pistols, Paradise Lost have the satisfaction that they helped carve a particular sound that can be heard in many of today’s alternative rock bands.

Track Listing:-

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Paradise Lost - Draconian Times

Paradise Lost - Draconian Times

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