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

Advertisements

Metal Chick of the Month – Cristina Scabbia

Follow me, follow me… As I trip the darkness…

If you write her name with an “h”, she will kick your ass mercilessly. That’s probably the most fun way to introduce you to our beyond special Metal Chick of the Month, the electrified Italian rocker Cristina Scabbia, one of the most influential and reputable women in the entire world of heavy music and the perfect choice for celebrating four metallic and totally awesome years of The Headbanging Moose webzine this October. Owner of a distinct and very potent voice, Cristina Scabbia, whose full name is Cristina Adriana Chiara Scabbia, was born on June 6, 1972 in the cosmopolitan city of Milan, a metropolis in Italy’s northern Lombardy region and a global capital of fashion and design. Best known as one of the two vocalists for Italian Alternative Rock/Metal band Lacuna Coil, Cristina is not only an accomplished singer and lyricist, but also a writer, a fashion model and, above all, a true headbanger who loves what she does and who has already devoted a good part of her life to Heavy Metal and Rock N’ Roll.

Cristina was not even 20 years old when she began singing professionally as a touring musician for other bands and providing backing vocals, in 1991. Later that year, she met vocalist Andrea Ferro and bass player Marco Coti Zelati, who would be the future founding members of Lacuna Coil, in Milan’s Midnight Club, and there’s no way of talking about Cristina without talking about her unique connection with Lacuna Coil. Actually, when the band started it was called Sleep of Right, having recorded a song called Bleeding Souls for the Noise of Bolgia compilation in 1995. The band soon changed its name to Ethereal, playing an interesting mix of Gothic and Doom Metal, with Cristina being initially employed only as a session singer, being asked to record backup vocals for the choruses of their demo tape, but the band members liked the way the male and female vocals sounded together and they asked her to be a permanent member then. After several lineup changes and after releasing a two-track demo in 1996, Ethereal were signed by Century Media Records at the end of 1997 and had to change their name to Lacuna Coil (which means “empty spiral”), as Ethereal was already taken by a band from Greece.

After the name change in 1997, Lacuna Coil became a reference in Alternative Rock and Metal worldwide, having already released eight studio albums, those being In a Reverie (1999), Unleashed Memories (2001), Comalies (2002), Karmacode (2006), Shallow Life (2009), Dark Adrenaline (2012), Broken Crown Halo (2014), and more recently Delirium (2016), as well as the EP’s Lacuna Coil (1998), Halflife (2000), Shallow Live: Acoustic at Criminal Records (2010) and The House of Shame / Delirium (2016). In addition to that, the band also released a DVD in 2008, titled Visual Karma (Body, Mind and Soul). Each album by Lacuna Coil is very unique, presenting a different sonority from the others, with the band always adding new elements to their music and experimenting with new sounds. If you want to have a journey through the various phases of the band, paying a detailed attention to the evolution of Cristina (whose highest note ever hit is claimed to be an A7) as a singer and a performer, you should definitely check their songs Falling Again (from In a Reverie), Senzafine (from Unleashed Memories), Swamped (from Comalies), Depeche Mode’s Enjoy the Silence (from Karmacode), I Like It (from Shallow Life), Trip to Darkness (from Dark Adrenaline), Nothing Stands in Our Way (from Broken Crown Halo), and Blood, Tears, Dust (from Delirium). As a matter of fact, there are so many official videos as well as bootlegs online with Cristina and Lacuna Coil you can literally spend hours or even days just watching everything nonstop.

Apart from her solid career with Lacuna Coil, Cristina can be seen in several distinct projects from the most diverse bands and genres, and in all of them she adds her personal touch of rebelliousness, passion and electricity. First let’s talk about her participation in metal-related bands and projects, and then let’s show what she can do when she’s not in her metallic mode. In 2007, Cristina lent her voice to the song S.O.S. (Anything but Love), from the album Worlds Collide by Finnish Symphonic Heavy Metal band Apocalyptica, and the result was so interesting she ended up playing several live concerts with them in the coming years. And it seems the year of 2007 was very fruitful for her career outside Lacuna Coil, as she also recorded what’s probably her biggest non-Lacuna Coil hit, the revamped version of the all-time classic power ballad “A Tout le Monde”, this time named A Tout le Monde (Set Me Free), by American Speed Metal titans Megadeth, featured on their excellent album United Abominations. Needless to say, every time Megadeth and Cristina were in the same city or festival, they ended up playing that amazing song together for the delight of the fans at the venue, as I was able to enjoy during the 2012 version of Gigantour with Megadeth, Motörhead, Volbeat, and Lacuna Coil here in Canada.

You can also find Cristina in unique metal projects such as the character “The Mother” on the 2013 album The Theory of Everything, by Dutch Progressive Metal/Rock band Ayreon, and as a guest vocalist on the song Scars, by Thrash/Groove Metal project Metal Allegiance, from their 2015 self-titled album. In addition, Cristina is also one of the musicians interviewed on the 2007 documentary Over the Madness, a DVD that follows the career of British Doom/Death Metal icons Paradise Lost, including interviews from present and past band members, plus a host of others such as the aforementioned Cristina, Martin E. Ain, Aaron Stainthorpe and Alex Skolnick, presenting the band’s history from its formation up to 2006, in chronological order.

In regards to her contributions to non-metal acts, you can enjoy the charming and powerful vocals by Cristina on different songs such as Beautiful Lie, as a duet with Italian singer Emiliano Audisio (Line 77) to be part of the soundtrack for the 2013 Italian film Passione Sinistra; Nell’acqua, with Rezophonic; an alternate version of Watch Over You, with Alter Bridge; Basta!, with L’Aura and Rezophonic; Can You Hear Me?, also with Rezophonic; and I’m That, with Franco Battiato. By the way, when Cristina sang with L’Aura it was in 2008 at Festival di Sanremo, one of the most important pop festivals in Italy (if not the most important one). And you can also find some nice videos online of Cristina singing together with a Queen tribute band called Queenmania, such as in the all-time classics Bohemian Rhapsody and Under Pressure. And in addition to all that, she also used to write an advice column in the popular rock magazine Revolver, alongside the iconic American drummer Vinnie Paul (Pantera, Hellyeah).

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

If you follow The Headbanging Moose you might have seen Cristina’s name as an inspiration for several of our previous metal chicks, just showing how important she is to the expansion of the presence of women in heavy music, but of course as any normal person she also has her idols and favorite bands in music. Among her main influences and names who contributed to her becoming a singer and pursuing a career in Heavy Metal, Cristina mentioned legendary bands such as Metallica, Megadeth, Pantera, Motörhead, as well as darker bands like Paradise Lost and Type O Negative. By the way, some of her favorite songs, those that really make a good amount of adrenaline rush through her body, are Motörhead’s Ace of Spades and Type O Negative’s My Girlfriend’s Girlfriend, which despite being very distinct songs I have to agree that they surely put a smile on the face of anyone who enjoys some good old rock and metal. Of course Cristina as any other talented and professional artist listens to a lot of non-metal music, in special music from her homeland Italy, which in the end helps her diversify her vocals from song to song, explore new horizons and remain vibrant and relevant to the world of heavy music.

Slightly changing the focus to her personal life, many of you might think it’s a dream to date a woman like her, but as in any relationship there are always some hurdles and barriers to be overcome in order to keep the passion and love going on. Cristina has been in a relationship with Slipknot and ex-Stone Sour guitarist Jim Root for over 10 years already, but keeping that relationship fresh is not an easy task due to distance between them as they’re both very busy musicians who are always on tour (not to mention the fact that Root lives in Florida while Cristina resides in Italy). “Well, my lifestyle is challenging already,” Cristina explained. “Because I travel a lot and I work very hard. So you have to learn to live your life in a different way, but in a way that works for you. So for me to even think about a normal relationship would be something weird.” Before dating Root, she was in a relationship with Lacuna Coil’s own bassist Marco, and when they broke up let’s say it wasn’t easy for them to keep working together as a band, but fortunately as decent adults they overcame that “issue” and now they’re very good friends, loving each other in a different level.

Another interesting topic discussed by Cristina in one of her interviews was related to the recent deaths of Chester Bennington and Chris Cornell, where she expressed her opinion about mental illnesses, from depression to dementia to other types of mental conditions, saying we should never judge the others’ decisions as there’s so much to understand about the whole situation before reaching any conclusion. That was also explored on Lacuna Coil’s latest album Delirium. “When we did Delirium, it was really important for us to treat it in the most respectful and delicate way possible,” said Cristina. “Because you can try to send a positive message and to try to tell people, ‘Oh, you should be positive all the time, you should be happy, you should overcome depression,’ and everything, but it’s not as easy as you speak. It’s way deeper than that and more complicated than this.”

As any good Italian woman, in special if that woman is born in the city of Milan, Cristina loves stylish clothes, trying on new make-up, taking care of her dark hair and everything else that’s a synonym to fashion. For instance, she considers her beauty and make-up signature the one she herself calls a “raccoon look”, or as described by Cristina, “a heavy sort of smokey eyes style with carbon black eyeshadow surrounding both whole eyes and heavily in the lower part of the eye as well.” She also mentioned that, because she likes to combine styles and to work with contrasts, she likes to observe everything around her and go to runway shows in Milan, listing as some of her style icons the always trendy Madonna and the very elegant and dark British and Irish designer Daphne Guinness. Furthermore, she said her make-up and outfit behavior is in constant change due to new products, styles and techniques that are always appearing in the market, stating that while thinking about a new look for her concerts she always takes into account several important factors such as if the clothes are easy to carry around, if they’re washable, and if they allow her to move a lot onstage. Also in the fashion world, American photographer Jeremy Saffer (an old-time friend of Cristina) invited her to be her calendar girl for the Halloween 2015 Special Edition of XPRESSIONS magazine, with the final result being beyond stunning, of course, being sold out in a really short time.

Regarding her preparation for getting onstage and spending a long time on the road during Lacuna Coil’s extremely busy agenda worldwide, Cristina said she doesn’t exercise a lot, saying she’s some sort of “lazy bum”, and that concentration is the most important part of the process for her together with some warming up exercises to keep her voice in good shape. She said travelling all the time and managing everything is definitely not for everyone, but it can be very rewarding if you love what you do. One funny thing connected to that hectic lifestyle is that Cristina collects all her flight boarding cards, saying that one day it will be nice to see and to show others how much she’s traveled in her life. And, in terms of the apps she uses regularly, apart from Facebook, Instagram, Periscope and Twitter, she’s also been using an app named Master Tour, which she considers very helpful for whoever does her type of job, keeping you updated on tours and schedules like a tour book in your smartphone. Hence, if you’re a touring musician, why not trying the same app as the successful Cristina Scabbia, right?

Lastly, when asked if she considers herself a role model for young girls, she said she doesn’t see herself as one but that all the love she gets from fans when she’s on the road makes her sometimes believe she might be indeed an inspiration for all of them. She always tells them that they have to believe in themselves because, no matter what, it is impossible to make everyone happy, so the key is to make ourselves happy and conscious of our own unique potential, with her motto in life being “live in the present and make it beautiful. I never think too much about the past or the future. The past is… gone and we will never be able to plan the future the perfect way.’’ What do you think about Cristina and her way of life? Do you agree with what she does and thinks in music and life in general? Well, there are tons of interesting interviews and videos of Cristina online to help you know more about her, such as this one from Loudwire called Wikipedia: Fact or Fiction?, where she even tells if her highest note being an A7 is true or not. It seems that the world of heavy music and also the whole cyberworld can never get enough of the one and only Italian stunner Cristina Scabbia (without an “h”, per favore).

Cristina Scabbia’s Official Facebook page
Cristina Scabbia’s Official Twitter
Cristina Scabbia’s Official Instagram
Lacuna Coil’s Official Facebook page
Lacuna Coil’s Official YouTube channel
Lacuna Coil’s Official Instagram

“You have to sing with your heart, you have to sing with passion, you have to be sincere in what you’re singing, and you have to be totally convinced of what you’re doing. Most of all, you have to realize that this is a hard job that not everyone can take, so don’t look at the shiny part only, because there is a lot of work involved and a lot of sacrifice, so be ready for that as well..” – Cristina Scabbia

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.

Rating4

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