Recently, The End Records snapped up the Music for Nations back catalog, a stable that includes Anathema, Cradle of Filth, Paradise Lost, Opeth, and more. The now-defunct label was once at the forefront of European metal, and even at one point, was responsible for distributing Metallica in the 1980’s. The third batch in its reissue series belongs to Paradise Lost, who in the mid-90’s were widely considered to be the logical successor to Metallica. While that never quite came to fruition, Nick Holmes, Gregor Mackintosh and crew managed to put out a handful of underground-altering albums, specifically 1991’s Gothic, and 1995’s Draconian Times.
MFN snapped the band up in 1992 for the release of Shades of God, kickstarting a run in the 90’s that helped PL run past Anathema and My Dying Bride in terms of sales and visibility. Being that these albums are of immense value in the annals of doom and underground metal as a whole, we felt it was necessary to snag Paradise Lost bass player Steven Edmondson to lend his thoughts on the reissues, and per the norm, we chimed in with ours…
Shades of God (1992) A drastic departure from the dungeon doom of Gothic, Shades of God saw Paradise Lost bring in more riffs than ever before, thus complicating and padding the album's waistline. Nick Holmes' barbaric roar started to become more refined, as bloated, but memorable cuts like "Mortals Watch the Day," "Pity the Sadness" and "No Forgiveness" emerged (and still stand) as the band's longest compositions. Only album closer (and "hit" single) "As I Die" would give an indication of where the Brits were headed on Icon...Tracks to watch: “Embraced,” “Pity the Sadness,” “As I Die.”
Reissue bonus tracks: “Rape of Virtue,” “Death Walks Behind You”
Steven Edmondson: We recorded it in a farmhouse in the middle of nowhere, quite the creepy place, actually. Most of the time we tried to scare each other by setting traps up. We were so young. Lot of mucking about, really. We still play songs off of it, like “As I Die,” “Pity the Sadness.”
Icon (1993) As the band's major play at commercial accessibility, Icon drew instant parallels to Metallica's Black Album, primarily through the lens of Holmes' Hetfield-like vocal approach. Of course, Holmes is a much better singer than 'ole James, so it comes in handy when the tempo starts dragging on "Joys of the Emptiness" and "Widow." Some of this has been attributed to soon-to-be ex-drummer Matthew Archer's inability to keep time properly, yet that's one of the real charms of Icon. In as much as the album's flaws are obvious, there's no mistaking the massive and instantly enjoyable complex of cuts like "Poison," "True Belief" and the seminal "Weeping Words." Tracks to watch: “Joys of the Emptiness,” “Weeping Words,” “Poison,” “True Belief.”
Reissue bonus tracks: “Sweetness,” “Your Hand in Mine (live)”
Edmondson: We got a bigger budget and went to a proper studio. There was a swimming pool, but it was cold out, so you had to break the ice on [it]. You could tell there was a bigger budget. It was a better studio, everything worked. Our drummer at the time, Matthew [Archer] had a broken rib. He was in agony and that was the last album he played. He did a good job on the album. Adrian [Erlandsson; current PL drummer] has a lot of problems with Matthew’s timing, actually. He’s a big influence on Adrian and his brother [Daniel]. They love Tubbs.
Draconian Times (1995) Arguably Paradise Lost’s landmark moment, Draconian Times took what Icon started, and stretched into festival-size anthems. Absent is the band’s moping Goth metal days, replaced with a shiny commercial polish that shines on brilliant cuts like “Hallowed Land,” “Shadowkings,” “Elusive Cure” and “I See Your Face.” Easily the band’s most melodic (see Gregor Mackintosh's gallant leads] and accessible album, Draconian Times doesn’t forsake the heaviness, with “The Last Time” and “Forever Failure” emerging as live staples. Perhaps the finest streamlined European metal album in existence, Draconian Times is a masterpiece. Tracks to watch: “Hallowed Land,” “Shadowkings,” “Elusive Cure,” “Jaded.”
Reissue bonus tracks: Seven Draconian Times live cuts from Germany; a bonus DVD with a 5.1 surround mix, along with the previously-unreleased “Last Desire.”
Edmondson: An even bigger budget and a longer time; I think we were there for two months. It was a lot of waiting around, I got a bit of cabin fever because it was just me and Aaron [Aedy, guitars] for two weeks in the studio. We didn’t speak to anyone in two weeks. That’s when everything started moving really fast for us. We did a tour with Ozzy, the Monsters of Rock in South America. It didn’t seem real to us, even now. We’ve played Ozzy a lot, actually. I think somebody in the Ozzy camp thinks we’re okay.
One Second (1997) Instantly divisive, especially in the climate in which the band was operating in where experimentation was a huge no-no, One Second ushered in PL’s electronic era, a run that lasted for three albums. Still, the title track haunts with Holmes’ lush, soft, vocals and thoughtful poetry, while made-for-live-play “Say Just Words” packs the album’s big punch. One Second doesn’t gain footing until “Mercy” and “This Cold Life” work their way in, the latter so immense that Israeli metal kings Orphaned Land saw fit to do an acoustic version of it. The Holy Trinity of British doom was never the same after this. Tracks to watch: “One Second,” “Mercy,” “Disappear,” “This Cold Life.”
Reissue bonus tracks: “How Soon is Now?” (The Smiths cover) “Albino Flogged in Black” (Stillborn cover)
Edmondson: I didn’t cut my hair [laughs]. It was like a trend to do that, but I don’t think anyone cares now. I think One Second is a good balance of the electronics and guitars. I think the next album [Host] went a bit too far.
Reflection (1998) The band’s first (and only) compilation, Reflection was released as means of capping off PL’s run on Music for Nations. With some vintage Peaceville tracks on display (“Gothic,” “Rotting Misery”), Reflections essentially covers the band’s growing pains and triumphs, along with the left-turns they started to make on One Second. The only reissue of the bunch that isn’t mandatory, Reflection skims past a lot of the band’s vital tracks, but it does manage to include “Hallowed Land,” so not all is uh, lost. Tracks to watch: “Hallowed Land,” Embers Fire,” “As I Die (live).”