Paradise Lost - In requiem 4/5

Reviewed: 2-8-08


1. Never for the damned
2. Ash & debris
3. The enemy
4. Praise lamented shade
5. Requiem
6. Unreachable
7. Prelude to descent
8. Fallen children
9. Beneath black skies
10. Sedative god
11. Your own reality

There was a time in the early to mid-90s when I was a die-hard Paradise Lost fan. Particularly on their watershed CDs 'Icon' (1993) and 'Draconian times' (1995), the gloomy Brits abandoned the doom/death hybrid of their early days in favor of a sound that was both unique and intoxicating. Combining the accessible crunch of Metallica's 'black album' with austere doom riffing, a Sisters of Mercy kind of gothic melodic overlay, and relentlessly bleak lyrics of loneliness and despair, Paradise Lost were in many ways a soundtrack for my life for a few years. I connected with their music on a very emotional level. I remember having dreams about songs like "Enchantment", "Once solemn", and "True belief", so deeply had this band permeated my psyche. Then came the betrayal, in the shape of Paradise Lost's 1997 CD, 'One second'. Those devastating Gregor Mackinstosh/Aaron Aedy riffs had largely vanished, replaced by a wash of lame electronica effects. The ferocious bellow and solemn wail of Nick Holmes gave way to a Brit-pop kind of singing. And the whole thing sounded like a homage to Depeche Mode. This abandonment wounded me deeply, and I boycotted Paradise Lost for a decade while their musical career continued to spiral further into the non-metal abyss of wimpdom. I quit buying their CDs. I ignored magazine articles and (later) Internet postings about the band. They were dead to me.

Then, in the latter half of 2007, I began hearing whisperings that Paradise Lost's interest in metal had been rekindled (or perhaps their wallets were just empty) and that they had recorded a new CD, 'In requiem', that hearkened back to the 'Icon'/'Draconian times' period. My heart skipped a beat. But I was skeptical. I resisted. I did not want to set myself up for disappointment again. But the whispers grew louder, swelling to a cacophony that I could no longer ignore as Paradise Lost were welcomed back into the heavy metal fold like the prodigal son. So I cast aside my misgivings and purchased a copy of 'In requiem', such that I found myself listening to a new Paradise Lost CD for the first time in a decade. The verdict? It's a damn fine CD, largely capturing the 'Icon'/'Draconian times' magic but leaving tell-tale traces of the band's odyssey to unfriendly realms in the intervening years.

Without a doubt, 'In requiem' marks a return to the classic Paradise Lost sound, bonding McIntosh's colossal concrete riffs with melancholy minor melodies, and wrapping the package in snappy, to-the-point songs that burrow into the listener's brain immediately. Single "The enemy" is a perfect example, just a superbly crafted traditional/doomy/gothic metal gem with insanely catchy hooks and brilliant female backing vocals. Elsewhere, "Requiem" is simply breathtaking with its power, boasting an amazing vocal track from Holmes ("You'll never save me again"), emotional guitar melodies from McIntosh, and a pummeling rhythm section. And "Never for the damned" is just brimming with passion, power and majestic melancholia that would have rendered it a standout track on 'Icon' if it had been written then.

Hang on just a second, though. It would be a misleading bit of fanboyism to stop the review here, because there are some flaws with 'In requiem'. To start with, there's Holmes' voice. Yes, he turns in an excellent performance in spots, but a comparison to older Paradise Lost shows a thinner, less powerful Holmes on display here. It's as if his throat is so accustomed to crooning out ball-less Brit-pop melodies all these years that he's simply unable to duplicate the raw emotional grittier-Hetfield roar that he once possessed. Also, those accursed Brit-pop musical sensibilities crop up from time to time on this CD. "Unreachable" sounds like something limp from 'One second', with just a slightly amped-up guitar approach. And closer "Your own reality" is guilty of the same offense.

Ultimately, then, 'In requiem' is absolutely deserving of much of the praise and hype it received upon its release. It marks the successful return of an iconic (heh) and highly influential heavy metal band to a path from which it tragically detoured many years ago. It contains all the hallmarks of vintage Paradise Lost and proves that the Holmes/McIntosh/Aedy team have not lost a step despite their long-running inexplicable fascination with wussy music. While it certainly does not equal the lofty benchmarks of the band's classic works, 'In requiem' is an excellent, unexpected return to form by a band that had long since forsaken the metal art form.




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