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Tragic Idol

Century Media (2012)
Rating: 8/10

It’s hard to believe that back in 1995 Yorkshire gothic doomsters Paradise Lost were riding a wave of success following the release of Draconian Times, that culminated in a headline slot at the infamous Dynamo Festival in Holland in front of 120,000 people. Some sections of the music press even tipped them to be Britain’s answer to Metallica, and with Nick Holmes’ Hetfield-esque vocal delivery and their sleek song writing prowess appealing to a cross-section of metal-heads, they may not have been far off the mark. Then disaster struck with the release of One Second two years later that introduced electronic elements and a less metal sound that alienated and confused fans, despite the album still containing some Paradise Lost anthems that are still staples of their live set today. The next couple of albums explored their Depeche Mode fixation further, until they relented and got back to metal basics on Symbol Of Life in 2002. Since then Paradise Lost have been steadily winning back those fans that adored them in the early days, and the good news is that Tragic Idol, their 13th studio album, goes even further in revisiting the quintet’s roots.

First cut, ‘Solitary One’, is a heavy, doomy affair, reminiscent of later Candlemass, which may not be the strongest track to open with, but the album’s mandate is confirmed with ‘Crucify’, a song that showcases the band’s knack of writing heavy, doom-ridden dirges with addictive hooks, and from here on its business as usual.

There are plenty of nods to their earlier albums – ‘Honesty In Death’ could very easily belong on Icon – and Gregor Mackintosh’s signature leads are present and correct throughout Tragic Idol’s 46 minutes. ‘Theories From Another World’ will be one of the album’s talking points, with it’s My Dying Bride-esque guitar intro leading into an uptempo, good old fashioned double-bass driven rhythm and heavy-as-you-like-it riffing, yet still finding room for catchy hooks; this track has all the hallmarks of being a live favourite for years to come.

One criticism particular to Paradise Lost, is their failure to create albums full of quality material. There’s always a few fillers thrown in, but here extra effort has been made to create as complete an album as possible. The band have also taken the wise decision to trim this release to ten tracks, making it a more immediate and accessible listen. Tragic Idol never outstays its welcome, making a refreshing change in today’s short attention span afflicted, music buying / downloading public.

Tragic Idol may not be the best album in their repertoire (that accolade arguably belongs to Shades Of God), but as an example of latter-day Paradise Lost, it is as close as they’re going to get to reliving the heady heights of yesteryear. They may not have toppled Metallica from their pinnacle, but this is a warning to their contemporaries that there’s life in the old dog yet.

Neil Not

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