Released: 2012, Century Media
Once a band reaches a certain elder status, it is usually a safe bet that one can fit them into one of three categories over the course of their career. First, is the significant, but not wholly unredeeming stylistic change (Van Halen, Rush) inspired by interest in new instruments or bands they admire, like U2 in Rush’s case. Next is the ambitious money grab for a wider audience and bigger record sales by embracing what is trendy (Europe, Metallica, & Machine Head). Finally there are the unfathomable, clueless, and often career-derailing moves that defy logic (Kiss’s THE ELDER, Celtic Frost’s COLD LAKE). Gather enough fans together, and a good number would have taken every one of the bands I just mentioned and put them into the other two categories. Thus would be the case with Paradise Lost, a band that could be classified into any of the three areas that I mentioned (I personally would group them with Rush and Van Halen). Yet, all fans would agree that no matter what side of the fence you are on, Paradise Lost has amassed a polarizing and perplexing catalog . Hordes of longtime fans have been alienated, perhaps the death metal fans as early as ICON, but most were likely done in by ONE SECOND or HOST. Despite this, the band attracted an appreciable but not huge batch of new fans with their shift from death/goth metal to goth rock and dance beats.
Eventually, either because a band tires of the new style, becomes concerned with their legacy, or never saw the sales they expected from a career makeover, a proclaimed return to the days of yore is announced. In 2005 the band began to court the ICON and DRACONIAN fans again with the self titled album, while still retaining many of the elements of the previous four of five albums. It remains one of the bands finest moments. Each album since then has moved ever closer to that hallowed ground, the ones that record labels and the press often proclaim loudly with each subsequent release, a “return to DRACONIAN TIMES”. In reality, Paradise Lost’s 13th album TRAGIC IDOL continues more closely in the style of FAITH DIVIDES US with pulverizing and heavy doom, interlaced with elements of gothic metal that the band practically invented. However, this is as close as they have come to the classic sound yet, with plenty of memorable elements of ICON and DRACONIAN mixed in.
Now that I have the long-winded but valid introduction out of the way, I can say that I rank this album their second best of the millennium behind the self-titled. The songs are catchier than on FAITH DIVIDES US and IN REQUIEM. Most notable is that Gregor Mackintosh is on fire, writing some of the most melancholic lines of his career while ripping through the most solos on a Paradise Lost album that I can recall. As soon as you hear those wah wah lines, it cannot help but take you back to the glory days. Not to be outdone, Nick Holmes seamlessly varies vocal styles from his most aggressive effort since ICON to a softer, melancholic drone, often varying the styles from verse to verse with great effect.
While I stand by the statement that this is not a return to DRACONIAN, there are plenty of songs that come close, such as the excellent “Fear Of Impending Hell”, a lyrically depressing and powerful tune, and the title track which invokes memories of “Forever Failure”. The heavy and up tempo openings to “Crucify” and “Theories Of Another World” could have easily appeared on FAITH DIVIDES US. However, the best might be saved for last with the “The Glorious End” a track that showcases all of the bands finest elements. Have no fear, the electronics are still mostly absent while the music and lyrics are appropriately cheerless and doomy. Paradise Lost has had a nice run over the last four albums, and TRAGIC IDOL stands proudly as another excellent and solid effort. Fans of the band and doom/goth metal fans in general should have no reservations about grabbing this one.