Full British Metal
by Ore Koren
I have always had an attraction for Metal. Maybe it's because the first parts I learned to play on my guitar were Metal riffs or maybe it's because it gave me something to talk about with friends in school. But the fact is that many times, I find myself, even today, as the genre protector in certain cliques. Many people still see Metal as a music style suitable for depressed teenagers, despite the fact that the genre adherents come from a wide spectrum, from 14 y.o. junior-high pimpled student to high waged computer programmer.
Metal today is one the most popular music styles, with almost superfluous sub genres, from Celtic Metal to Black Metal. Some groups, who resented the emphasis on speed in Metal, took it to a different, much slower path called Doom. Starting around the mid-80's, bands like Trouble, Candlemass and Saint Vitus embraced Christian symbolism instead of resenting it like many other Metal bands. In 1991, Doom Metal was developed further, when the British band Cathedral debuted with Forest of Equilibrium, an album that corresponded with other genres besides Doom, such as Death Metal. The Death/Doom style became associated with three British bands: Anathema from Liverpool and My Dying Bride and Paradise Lost from Halifax.
Paradise Lost was founded in 1988, in Halifax, a medium town in Yorkshire, north England. The band's first lineup, who were barely out of high school, consisted of Nick Holmes - vocals, Greg Mackintosh – lead guitar, Aaron Aedy – rhythm guitar, Steve Edmondson – bass and Matthew Archer – drums. The only changes in the band's lineup was in 1994, when Archer was replaced by drummer Lee Morris, and in 2004 when Lee Morris left and Jeff Singer assumed the drums. Since PL was founded, Holmes and Mackintosh have been its prominent writers, writing almost every one of theirs songs.
The band recorded its debut album, Lost Paradise, in 1989, and it was released in 1990. Lost Paradise was recorded in Academy studio, and is considered by many as the band's most "heavy" album. Nick used a growling and death-grunting singing style while the guitar work is fast compared to the usual Doom fretwork. I first heard this album when I was 13, and I remember thinking this was strong stuff. Lost Paradise was very innovative in his combination of Doom and Death metal (which was more goth and arty), but it didn't gain much notice.
In December 1990, the band went back to Academy studios to record Gothic. Although Nick still uses a death-grunting singing style, the guitar work on this album, and hence its entire texture, is much mellower and slow, in an almost straight Heavy Metal style. Mackintosh's guitar sound is defined and his solos are characterized by being highly technical yet slow and not presumptuous. Aedy's rhythm guitar becomes much less distorted and spread and much more exact and precise. Gothic was released in 1991 and gained a good measure of success for the band. It is considered, along with Cathedral's Forest of Equilibrium and My Dying Bride's Turn Loose the Swans (1993), as a defining album in the modern Doom Metal movement. It is also considered a defining album in Gothic Metal, due to its mellow Heavy Metal sound and its use of orchestral instruments and female singing (performed by Sarah Marrion), which back then wasn't as common as it is today. After the album was released, the band gained much more popular in Europe, in England itself and even more in the mainland itself.
In 1992, PL recorded Shades of God in Longhome Studios. The album's musical texture is very similar to Gothic but Holmes' singing is much less aggressive and deformed, reflecting the beginning of his vocal transformation to the clean, Hetfield-like voice he well use later on.
In 1993, the band released Icon, to my mind the best PL album and one of Metal's most brilliant works. Icon is characterized by a very unique and mysterious sound, which combines Gothic, Heavy and Doom styles. The guitar and rhythm texture is very similar to the one heard on Gothic and Shades of God. Holmes does not grunt anymore, but sings instead in a Heavy Metal deep and solemn voice.
Draconian Times, the band's fifth album, was released in 1995. PL now had a new drummer, Lee Morris. Draconian Times is considered PL's best album by many and as one of the first pure Gothic Metal albums, influencing many Gothic Metal acts, such as Nightwish and HIM. It reached #16 on the U.K. charts and received good reviews as the band saw another rise in its popularity.
But PL kept innovating. In 1997, the band released its sixth album, One Second, which featured an almost complete retreat from PL's Doom and Gothic Metal ways, moving into synth rock style. To my mind, it is one of the band's most unique albums. The songs are much more melodic and faster than usual, but the guitar work gives the familiar, aggressive and necessary color that separates this album from other electronic bands like Depeche Mode.
Reflection, released in 1998, is the band's first collection album, besides The Singles Collection mini-album from 1997, which featured five singles: "As I Die," "Seals the Sense," "The Last Time," "Forever Failure" and "Say Just Words." Reflection included several live tracks alongside songs taken from PL's preceding studio albums.
In 1999, PL released Host, which is very similar to One Second in its light sound and guitar work. With One Second and Host, the band achieved a new level of acclamation in the U.S. and Canada.
On Believe in Nothing, released in 2001, the band took another turn, this time putting more emphasis on guitar and taking the electronic aspect down a notch. The outcome is a pure rock album with little Gothic touches, especially on the guitar front. Holmes' singing is much more matured, and all these little subtleties contribute to a very mature and balanced album that takes PL very right into a new decade. Symbol of Life was released one year after Believe in Nothing, in 2002, and reflects the band's return to their more traditional Gothic Metal style – with strong guitars and female vocals - while again emphasizing the electronic aspect. The result is a very refined album that resembles other Gothic Metal works yet alienates them at the same time.
In 2003, At the BBC was released. The album includes songs that the band played on the BBC's Friday Rock Show in 1992 and 1995 and songs that were performed in Liverpool for the Sunday Rock Show.
2005 saw PL with a new drummer – Jeff Singer, who joined the band in 2004 – and a new album, titled Paradise Lost. The album's musical style strongly resembles Believe in Nothing, emphasizing strong guitar work more than keyboards. Holmes' voice is a little more aggressive, giving the album more of a desperate presence than its close precedents.
PL's most recent album, In Requiem (released May, 2007), features the band's return to its earlier sound from Draconian Times era. Sharper guitars and sharper singing, yet a more modern atmosphere set the band in a good place after two decades of original music and creation.
Paradise Lost achieved very much in almost two decades of creativity, from defining early Doom and Death Metal, to the spawning of the Gothic Metal. The band's trips to regions of electronic music show its daring musical attitude. Still, Paradise Lost always kept its core unharmed – even in its synth rock era of One Second and Host, it kept the background tinted with sharp and acute electric guitars, and that's maybe the band's secret. Because whenever I listen to PL, I get the sensation of a gloomy, wet industrial town, with rain beating the cracked red brick walls of its tiny and tight houses. The band's core sensation has always remained bleak, dark and somber, and I think what's really unique about Paradise Lost is the fact that they never recorded bad album. This character sets PL apart from other, sometimes even more successful Metal acts, and this confronts me with an unsolved question – how come Paradise Lost didn't achieve a much wider success.
And that's a big question. Because although the band is very popular in Europe – especially in Germany, but also in Scandinavia, Greece and Israel – it never gained much success in America (or even in their home country, for that matter). Although they heavily influenced Nightwish, they open for them, not the other way around; although the name Paradise Lost is familiar to many Heavy Metal fans, many of them don't have even one of the band's albums. Like Rudyard Kipling's Kim, like Art Garfunkle, they don't get the accolade they deserve, and I hope this situation will change.
Also see Paradise Lost's OFFICIAL SITE
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