Album Review – Paradise Lost / Draconian Times (1995)

The best, darkest and most detailed album by one of the pioneers of Gothic and Doom Metal.

paradise_lost-draconian_times-frontI remember when I was a teenager that there was a stupid “urban legend” about the album Icon, by British Gothic/Doom Metal band Paradise Lost, selling more copies worldwide than Metallica’s Black Album. We all know that was pure bullshit, but one thing was true: with the albums Icon and especially Draconian Times, Paradise Lost became one of the most respected bands of the 90’s, being recognized as one of the pioneers of Gothic/Doom Metal and appearing as one of the main attractions in many festivals all over the world, something not seen very often taking into account the dark and sluggish music played by the band.

Draconian Times, as any other album from a similar genre and/or style, is not an easy product to be assimilated, mainly due to its obscure and depressive themes, and of course, its slow pace (you shall never expect to hear some fast drums in a Gothic song, my friend). However, it’s a brilliant Heavy Metal album with several amazing moments, even if you’re not a big fan of this type of music. The first track of the album, Enchantment, is an excellent summary of the band’s music, with a beautiful piano intro and excellent riffs throughout the whole song. It’s a great mix of Gothic and Doom Metal, with particular highlights to Nick Holmes’ powerful voice and the song’s somber lyrics (“In depth grasp the chains / Struggle as the waters gain but I… / All I need is a simple reminder) and eerie atmosphere.

The second track, Hallowed Land, is what we can call pure Doom Metal,  while The Last Time became an instant hit with its faster than usual rhythm and lyrics and chorus tailored for being sung loud by all fans at their shows (“It’s a cruel misfortune / Forbidding us to see / When stories may collide / It’s a sad state of mind / Heart’s beating… / Heart’s beating for the last time”). This might be considered their biggest hit, despite its a more commercial approach not being well digested by their diehard fans. Then we have Forever Failure and its lyrics that deal with the constant losses in our lives, a very depressive and slow song not recommended for people who have some kind of suicidal tendencies. Once Solemn closes the first part of the album in a brilliant way, being a fast tune with a very good rhythm, and more Heavy Metal than any of the other songs (sometimes even sounding like Metallica).

Paradise LostIf Draconian Times was comprised of only its first five tracks, it would have deserved a flawless 5.0. However, after that the album loses a little its energy and creativity, but nothing that makes it less compelling. Shadowkings has nice riffs and its pace is good, albeit not enough to outdo the previous songs, while Elusive Cure, sounds extremely Gothic, eerie and deep. The following track, called Yearn for Change, showcases an obscure but pleasant rhythm, while Shades of God goes back to the more melancholic approach of “Elusive Cure”, despite not being as solid and entertaining. Finally, we have Hands of Reason, with a very beautiful guitar solo embellishing its overall result, followed by the sluggish and damned I See Your Face, and the final track, Jaded, which is extremely melancholic and another good example of how slow and somber the union of Gothic and Doom Metal can be.

Many different special editions of Draconian Times have been released since the original version in 1995, all of them with some bonus songs, videos and other shenanigans. In addition, there’s a live album called Draconian Times MMXI, where the band plays the album in its entirety. If you cannot find any of the fancier versions of it, I suggest you at least search for the one that comes with The Sisters of Mercy cover Walk Away. It’s an amazing version for this classic song that’s worth the extra investment without a shadow of a doubt.

The front cover is beautiful and makes a great connection with the music in the album, representing all the sadness and sorrow found in the lyrics and rhythm. Another important thing is that despite being considered a Gothic band by many, very few songs have over 5 minutes in Draconian Times, making the album more “commercial” or at least easier for the radio stations at that time and MTV to play some of the songs during any of their daily programs. Those were good times when Rock N’ Roll and Heavy Metal were respected and admired, with Paradise Lost being competent (and lucky enough) to enjoy some fame in the world of mainstream music even playing mournful and unhappy sounds.

Best moments of the album: Enchantment, The Last TimeOnce Solemn and Walk Away.

Worst moments of the album: Shades of God.

Released in 1995 Music For Nations

Track listing
1. Enchantment 6:04
2. Hallowed Land 5:02
3. The Last Time 3:27
4. Forever Failure 4:18
5. Once Solemn 3:03
6. Shadowkings 4:41
7. Elusive Cure 3:21
8. Yearn for Change 4:19
9. Shades of God 3:54
10. Hands of Reason 3:58
11. I See Your Face 3:17
12. Jaded 3:26

Japanese Edition bonus tracks
13. Walk Away (The Sisters of Mercy cover) 3:24
14. Laid to Waste 3:16
15. Master of Misrule 3:07

Band members
Nick Holmes – vocals
Greg Mackintosh – lead guitar
Aaron Aedy – rhythm and acoustic guitars
Steve Edmonson – bass guitar
Lee Morris – drums

Album Review – Rotting Christ / Rituals (2016)

The Greek gods of Black Metal return with a brand new opus that sounds more ritualistic and occult than ever, but as heavy and visceral as usual.

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rotting christ_ritualsI’m pretty sure most metalheads will agree with me when I say Rituals, the brand new opus by Greek Black/Dark Metal institution Rotting Christ, would be the perfect soundtrack to the most intense and gruesome epic movie of all time, making even classics like Gladiator look like a teen movie. Rituals does not offer just another selection of Extreme Metal songs crafted by this iconic band from Athens, Greece, but instead a sequence of ritualistic battle chants tailored to inspire us to grab our swords, shields and armors and be prepared to fight in this Holy War until our inevitable and sanguinary end comes.

In fact, this blend of Extreme Metal with History, religion and culture offered by Rotting Christ is not news to anyone. This has been a constant in the distinct career of this awesome Greek act since their inception in 1987, and with each and every new record they go deeper and deeper into the selected topics and themes, always improving the more contemporary blackened-Gothic style from their latest albums. Add to that the several guest musicians featured in Rituals and the band’s usual controversy in regards to their lyrics, and there you have another excellent album that will surely keep Rotting Christ more than relevant in the world of extreme music.

We already face a religious call to arms in the opening track, entitled In Nomine Dei Nostri (“In the Name of Our God”, from Latin), featuring guest vocalist George Zacharopoulos, who helps Rotting Christ in providing the album a solid start. Musically speaking, this tune is remarkably potent and imposing, a sonic battle that gradually grows within time and that gets even more impactful due to its demonic chorus. זה נגמר (Ze Nigmar), or “It’s Over”, is a dark and mysterious song about death and failure written in the official language of Jesus Christ (Aramaic) and is referred on his last 7 sentences on the cross, displaying the band’s trademark sonority with the guitar riffs by the band’s mastermind Sakis Tolis and the talented George Emmanuel creating a mesmerizing aura; while the high-octane tune Ἐλθὲ κύριε (Elthe Kyrie), or “Come Lord” from Greek, features Danai Katsameni (an actress of the National Hellenic Theater) vociferating some disturbing and desperate vocals which end up bringing a fantastic vibe to the music, not to mention those screams match flawlessly with the deeper growling by Sakis.

I simply love how many different languages and dialects are used by the band, always providing a fresh touch to their music, and in Les Litanies de Satan (Les Fleurs du Mal), or “The Litanies of Satan (The Flowers of Evil)” from French, that couldn’t be different, with the music generating a belligerent ambience that provides guest vocalist Vorph (Samael) all he needs to darkly declaim the song’s French lyrics (“Toi dont l’oeil clair connaît les profonds arsenaux / Où dort enseveli le peuple des métaux, / Toi dont la large main cache les precipices / Au somnambule errant au bord des edifices”). And as heavy and tribal as it can be, Ἄπαγε Σατανά (Apage Satana), the Greek for  “Begone, Satan”, brings forward a hellish march where its background noises and vociferations add an extra layer of obscurity to this disturbing chant, sounding like a satanic mantra at times.

rotting christIn Του θάνατου (Tou Thanatou), or “Death’s” from Greek, although you can hear straightforward Black Metal in the background, the music is at the same time very melodic and ritualistic, with hints of Symphonic Gothic Metal enhancing even more the quality of this beautiful cover version for a traditional Greek song by Nikos Xylouris. The initial and final narrations in For a Voice like Thunder (taken from the Prologue to “King Edward the Fourth” by William Blake) are obscurely amazing thanks to the fantastic contribution by the one and only Nick Holmes, who together with Sakis and his crew makes sure there are plenty of Gothic and Doom Metal elements from his band Paradise Lost added to the music.

Dark shadows continue to be over the music by Rotting Christ in Konx om Pax, which means  “Watch and do no harm” from Greek or “Light rushing out in a single ray” from Egyptian, another solid war-like composition where all instruments sound powerful, especially the sustained drumming by Themis Tolis and the song’s background keyboards. The same can be said about देवदेवं (Devadevam), or “God of Gods” from Sanskrit, a more melancholic and somber tune featuring guest singer Kathir which despite being very complex and dense, it lacks the Black Metal “venom” found in the other songs of the album. And the grand finale in Rituals comes in the form of a unique cover version for a psychedelic tune by Greek Progressive Rock band Aphrodite’s Child, entitled The Four Horsemen, where Themis and bassist Van Ace have exceptional performances while Sakis continues firing his bestial and effective growls.

There are so many details, so much content and so much to absorb in Rituals (which can be listened in its entirety HERE) that it becomes extremely difficult for an occasional listener of Rotting Christ to understand and enjoy everything the band is offering. However, if you’re a fan of occult and extreme music with a robust production and a primeval background, I’m sure you’ll have a very productive time listening to each “ritual” of the album. Rituals will take you to a time where crossing the thin line between war and religion was just a matter of accepting or not that the world we live in is hopeless, and there’s nothing we can do to change its wretched destiny.

Best moments of the album: In Nomine Dei Nostri, Ἐλθὲ κύριε (Elthe Kyrie) and Του θάνατου (Tou Thanatou).

Worst moments of the album: देवदेवं (Devadevam).

Released in 2016 Season of Mist

Track listing
1. In Nomine Dei Nostri 4:57
2. זה נגמר (Ze Nigmar) 4:43
3. Ἐλθὲ κύριε (Elthe Kyrie) 4:49
4. Les Litanies de Satan (Les Fleurs du Mal) 3:55
5. Ἄπαγε Σατανά (Apage Satana) 3:50
6. Του θάνατου (Tou Thanatou) (Nikos Xylouris cover) 3:37
7. For a Voice like Thunder 6:11
8. Konx om Pax 6:21
9. देवदेवं (Devadevam) 5:18
10. The Four Horsemen (Aphrodite’s Child cover) 5:24

Special Digibox bonus track
11. Lok’tar Ogar 4:25

Band members
Sakis Tolis – vocals, guitars
George Emmanuel – guitars
Van Ace – bass
Themis Tolis – drums

Guest musicians
George Zacharopoulos – additional vocals on “In Nomine Dei Nostri”
Danai Katsameni – additional vocals on “Ἐλθὲ κύριε (Elthe Kyrie)”
Vorph – additional vocals on “Les Litanies de Satan (Les Fleurs du Mal)”
Nick Holmes – additional vocals on “For a Voice like Thunder”
Kathir – additional vocals on “देवदेवं (Devadevam)”

Album Review – Paradise Lost / The Plague Within (2015)

They’re the most amazing plague within the world of Doom and Gothic Metal, and they’re back with more of their unique dark music.

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paradise lost-the plague withinWhen the band in question are British Gothic/Doom Metal icons Paradise Lost, we all must forget about that disposable Goth teen attitude that infests thousands of websites, TV programs, YouTube channels and alternative nightclubs. These guys don’t need all those shenanigans to craft the darkest and most melancholic sounding you can think of, and they’ve been doing that with their faces “clean” for decades, releasing masterpieces such as Draconian Times and Icon. This is Doom Metal for grown-ups, and a true pleasure to listen to anytime of the day.

Now once again Mr. Nick Holmes and his crew offer us all their doomed excellence in The Plague Within, the 14th studio album in their stupendous career. Everything in the album was meticulously put together, from the album art to its obscure lyrics, without losing that raw feeling that made them famous worldwide two decades ago. If you think their previous album, Tragic Idol (2012), was a strong release, you’ll probably enjoy this new one as well, as it keeps up with the same level of complexity and deepness, but of course always providing the listener some fresh and exquisite elements to differentiate it from their other albums.

No Hope in Sight is a great tune to open the album, where its first few seconds take us back to the 90’s when Paradise Lost were rising to stardom. I believe everyone, including myself, loves how Nick can deliver some growls and his deep dark clean vocals at the same time, and of course those superb heavy riffs accompanied by the slow beats which are exactly what diehard fans of the band wanted to hear. Speeding up things a bit we have the excellent Terminal, with highlights to its truly obscure lyrics (“I can hope as silence and torture grows / The violence we now condemn infests our inner souls”) and to the amazing guitar duo by Greg Mackintosh and Aaron Aedy, enhancing the musicality to Blackened Doom (with even the vocals by Nick getting darker than usual). In An Eternity of Lies, an orchestral intro turns into a beautiful display of melancholy and hate, and as much as I enjoy guttural vocals, in my opinion Nick’s clean voice sounds simply perfect in this song.

paradise lostThe lyrics from the following song, Punishment Through Time, are perfect for the sounding provided by the band (“Neglect afraid to say / Repentance awaits / Rejected jaded decayed / A vengeance awaits”), and it’s practically impossible not to get thrilled by this tune. I see it as a modern version of the music in Draconian Times, boosted by the awesome riffs and solos by Greg and Aaron. And if you love when Paradise Lost let their doomed side take control of the music you’ll go crazy with Beneath Broken Earth, where Nick’s vocals are so demonic you might even feel disturbed with them, with highlights to the low-tuned bass lines by Steve Edmondson and the constant and dark beats by Adrian Erlandsson. Furthermore, the lugubrious shadow doesn’t give any sign of going away with Sacrifice the Flame, another beautiful composition of sorrow and pain led by the powerful voice by Nick. Long story short, it’s slow and soulful, and that’s all we need from Paradise Lost to have a good time.

When Victim of the Past starts just as somber as the previous tunes, you will notice how dark the second half of the album is, with the atmosphere created by the keyboard notes being amazingly gruesome while the rest of band delivers some solid obscure lines. However, Paradise Lost get a lot faster and heavier in Flesh from Bone, an old school Doom Metal tune with imposing lyrics (“See the righteous fall at the rise of the damned, denied / See others crawl in the hour demand and fight”), and when a band has a superb musician like Adrian on drums they can range from the slowest Doom Metal to the most bestial Black Metal flawlessly. Letting their Stoner Rock/Metal vein arise, Cry Out is an awesome pub-fighting song which will make you headbang and raise your beer to the band for sure, with the addition of an 80’s Gothic touch to make the whole experience even better. And lastly, the masters of the genre deliver the most traditional Doom Metal in Return to the Sun, where its symphonic/choir intro is a work-of-art and every element contained in the entire song is thoroughly connected. It doesn’t matter whether you prefer the harsh vocals by Nick or the funereal drums by Adrian, if you don’t fall in love for this song forget about Doom Metal, because that’s definitely not your cup of tea.

The deluxe edition of this beautiful album comes with three interesting bonus tracks: Fear of Silence, Never Look Away and Victim of the Past (which is a live recording of an orchestral version of the original song, by the way), and you can also enjoy or even study all its lyrics HERE. As long as Paradise Lost keep releasing strong albums like this one, maintaining the fires of darkness alive, they will always be the awe-inspiring plague within the world of Doom and Gothic Metal.

Best moments of the album: Terminal, Punishment Through Time, Sacrifice the Flame and Return to the Sun.

Worst moments of the album: Victim of the Past.

Released in 2015 Century Media

Track listing
1. No Hope in Sight 4:54
2. Terminal 4:28
3. An Eternity of Lies 5:58
4. Punishment Through Time 5:13
5. Beneath Broken Earth 6:09
6. Sacrifice the Flame 4:42
7. Victim of the Past 4:29
8. Flesh from Bone 4:19
9. Cry Out 4:31
10. Return to the Sun 5:44

Deluxe Edition bonus tracks
11. Fear of Silence 3:59
12. Never Look Away 5:17
13. Victim of the Past (Orchestral Version) 5:13

Band members
Nick Holmes – vocals
Greg Mackintosh – lead guitar
Aaron Aedy – rhythm guitar
Steve Edmondson – bass guitar
Adrian Erlandsson – drums