Gehlke, David- No Celebration-The Official Story Of Paradise Lost (Book Review)

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Reviewed: September, 2020
Released: 2019, Decibel Books
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: JP

Like many Metal-minded folks, I grew up physically swapping albums back and forth, lending and borrowing and just exploring music with friends, as one did before the advent of the information superhighway. One of my favourite memories of Paradise Lost was that in the early to mid-90’s (my university years in British Columbia) I had enjoyed the first several albums (on cassette actually) having borrowed them from my friend, David.

One day, I think it was the Christmas of 1995 and I was at home in Calgary for the holidays and ‘Evil’ Dave sent me in the mail, the first six Paradise Lost cassettes, mint condition, all in pristine cases. Best present ever! I still have them to this day, even the AS I DIE cassette E.P, which a good condition copy of, according to Discogs, will set you back a few quid.

However, despite enjoying the music, the band remained a bit of a mystery. They had very little media coverage, or touring (even less in Western Canada) no videos to be seen on TV; these guys (along with My Dying Bride and Anathema) seemed to be this whole mysterious,foreign, exotic and exciting scene of Northern English Doom!
Well, reading NO CELEBRATION kind of burst that bubble and I’ll explain more in a moment. It also clarified a lot to me as well about this sort of, underground mystery-band from far away.

NO CELEBRATION is the first biography of PARADISE LOST. Published by the good folks at Decibel, this 300+ page hardcover is very nicely done. It’s absolutely packed with photos too all black and white because colour and Paradise Lost are not compatible. Karl Willets of Bolt-Thrower provided a nice Foreword and the whole thing thing is properly referenced and sourced. Decibel is really making a name for themselves publishing top-notch Metal books. The only thing that could have include was a official discography. The band has so many cool singles and EP’s and extra bits and bobs, it would have been nice to see that information formally collected all in one place instead of me having to log onto the internet and go to different to look it up and cross reference.

The author, David Gehlke, who you may recall is also the author of the superb Noise Records biography from a few years back, has tackled this enigmatic band. With the words PURE NORTHERN MISERY in big block letters across the back, Gehkle tells us the story of Paradise Lost from the beginning.

From reading his introduction, ‘(Shadow) Kings Of The Northern World’, it is immediately apparent that’s Gehkle is a true fan. He also admits that being an American and a bit younger, he came a bit later to the band, somewhere around age 16 when ONE SECOND came out in the summer of ‘97. This probably works to his advantage as an objective author and not an obsessed ‘super-fan’ who could could find no fault with the band. He also explains the clever concept behind the title NO CELEBRATION and how the book ties in with the 30th anniversary of the band.

After the traditional opening pages describing the background of each and member something became quickly apparent to me, something I had never known before, and that is how popular the band was (and is)! This takes me back to my original point that being fan in Western Canada where they had little to no exposure, I had no idea how big they are elsewhere. Major label deals, extensive tours, high budget videos, TV shows, magazine covers, big festival appearances; they were big! Throughout the book, in several places the band fully admits they missed conquering the North American market in the 90’s. Many, many years later they did tour North American as an opening act with Katatonia, who did work the North American market hard, whereas in Europe the roles would be reversed.

Additionally, I was a bit disappointed to learn there were really was no scene… no unholy dark, triumvirate of pure northern misery consisting of Paradise Lost , My Dying Bride, and Anathema… despite what the little metal media we did get about the band would have us believe! In fact, the three bands didn’t really get along very well at all actually! Another myth of my youth shattered to pieces.

This is almost completely unrelated but I found it amusing that the band revealed that they never quite gelled with their second drummer Lee Morris because they were all from Halifax (in the north) and he was from Wolverhampton (in the middle). This amuses me. I looked it up on a map. Those two towns are only 186 kilometres apart! I can drive 186 kilometres in a straight line, in any direction, and still not be at the next big town! I drive over 300km to see a concert! So for the band to never click with drummer Morris after a decade because (my quotation marks)…..‘those guys in Wolverhampton (an insurmountable 186 km) have a different sense of humour,’ seemed so odd to me. See page 99 and 100 for more detail!

This book has everything you could want to know about the band.  Album by album, chapter by chapter it takes us fro the lads in grade school all the way up to the MEDUSA album.    Each album and era gets full and equal coverage, even the darker years, unlike so many other books about Metal.  Gehlke even covers the various side projects like Vallenfyre and Holmes time with Bloodbath as well.  I can’t recommend this enough.

NO CELEBRATION came out in late 2019 (I got it for my birthday in June of 2020) and this is limited to 1000 copies so you might want to grab yours before they disappear!


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