Paradise Lost remain as vital, passionate as ever before on 13th disc ‘Tragic Idol’

It’s not uncommon or unexpected when, two decades into a band’s run, things start to slow down. The music isn’t as urgent, the band’s voice isn’t what it once was, and the expression isn’t as vital or immediate. That’s often when bands start relying on the hits, going into the studio just to make new music so there’s an excuse to tour and make a quick buck from the diehards.

Luckily for us, long-tenured doom metal band Paradise Lost does not fall into that category. While there have been highs and lows over their extensive recording career that began with 1990’s “Lost Paradise,” the band has remained mostly consistent. In fact, their last two offerings — 2007’s “In Requiem” and 2009’s “Faith Divides Us — Death Unites Us” — were pretty solid and demonstrated a band that didn’t seem anywhere near running on fumes. Now comes their 13th studio offering “Tragic Idol,” one of the year’s more highly anticipated records, and results are nothing short of powerful. This band has no quit in them, and even though they’ve been down every road and tackled every corner of the globe, they still have something relevant and exciting to say.

Another impressive anecdote about England’s Paradise Lost is they have maintained basically the same lineup since their formation in 1988. They’ve shuffled drummers a few times, with Adrian Erlandsson sitting behind the kit now, but the core of vocalist Nick Holmes, lead guitarist Gregor Mackintosh (we spoke with him a while back about his Vallenfyre project), rhythm guitarist Aaron Aedy, and bassist Steve Edmonson has stood the test of time and only grown stronger over the years. Listen to “Tragic Idol” and try to deny the fire that still rages in their bellies or that they’re not still incredibly important and influential to the metal scene. This is a fantastic, killer record that’s one of the best they’ve put together in a long time, their recent run of quality music aside.

Mackintosh, who got his vintage death metal hunger satisfied on the Vallenfyre release, said the new album would be guitar-oriented and feature more melody than before, and he was right about that. The songs do bristle and crush in spots, and some of the tracks are among of the band’s heaviest ever, but there is a gothic loveliness underneath a lot of the compositions, hooks that strike and floor you, and memorable moment after memorable moment that should make for some really exciting live shows. I imagine these songs will be fodder for much crowd participation.

Even when Holmes howls and growls, “Love fails today!” at the start of “Solitary One,” you’re not headed on a trip that’s quite as brutal as that salvo indicates. Yeah, it has its thorny moments to be sure, but it dissolves into a watery, gothy chorus that contains some of the most soulful singing on the entire album. It’s a song I can’t get out of my head. “Crucify” kicks in and lets things get a little rowdier for a bit, with a charging guitar line from Mackintosh that envelops the somber melody. “Fear of Impending Hell” is one of the catchiest songs on the record, and it could be a stand-out track for them, especially with a chorus this sticky. Try to ignore Holmes calling, “Never see the light, I don’t know where to escape.” You’ll fail, trust me. “Honesty in Death” is another that has hit written on it, with a nice chorus and a structure that keeps your blood flowing; the title cut has some deeper, less forceful vocal work from Holmes, as does “Worth Fighting For”; and closer “The Glorious End” is a true, slow-moving doom epic that’s utterly moody and dark.

I did note some of the material is heavier than usual, and you’ll find that evidence on “Theories From Another World,” a driving, fast, riff-rich song that simmers and shakes in its aggression, as well as “To the Darkness,” a song that catches onto a power metal-style gallop and keeps the tempo rambling forward.

“Tragic Idol” is not only a fantastic later-career entry for Paradise Lost, it’s one of the better albums of their collection. They keep finding new ways to be effective and keep their perspective fresh. They don’t sound like they’re slowing down one bit, and I’m guessing the live shows surrounding the new record will be some of their most passionate, ferocious yet. That’s not something you can manufacture, proving they have just as much heart as talent.

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