Released in March 1991, Gothic is the second full-length album from Paradise Lost and is widely considered as their best and most influential work. While the latter may very well be true, unfortunately, the former would only be correct if not for the existence of Lost Paradise, which kills this in every possible way. Gothic is hardly worth listening to and possesses many shortcomings, compared to its predecessor.
First of all, the production is really horrible. The vocals are too high in the mix, by far. The drums are really inconsequential, similar to the previous album in presentation. However, the major problem with the sound is how weak and low the guitars are. They still sound somewhat rough and unpolished; however, they come across as very thin and quiet. The crushing force present on Lost Paradise is completely gone, even during parts that clearly need it. Of course, due to the shift in songwriting, one would expect some kind of changes to accentuate that, but to neuter the music seems like a poor choice.
Musically, Gothic is softer and more melodic than the debut. At times, one can hear traces of goth rock, especially on "Shattered". The Death Metal parts that made up a solid part of the previous album are almost completely absent. The fastest parts on here are more akin to something from an old Black Sabbath record, with bits of Celtic Frost thrown in. There is still some decent doom riffs, but many are spoiled by the weak production or the very irritating and much more prevalent use of female vocals and an orchestra, the title track being a notable example. The addition of these cheesy elements, along with the haphazard compositions, result in a total lack of the dark vibe that was present on Lost Paradise. There really is not much atmosphere to speak of, as most of this comes off as generic and pointless. The one song that best combats this is "Silent", which features some of the best moments of the whole record. This is the only one that sounds like a continuation of the last record, though it is not perfect either. The lead guitar work is more extensive on this album, and adds a lot to the music, but still fails to make up for the mediocre songwriting. The vocals are a little more varied, as Holmes begins to experiment with his clean voice, though he mostly sticks to his monstrous death growl. However, it feels a little out of place being paired up with such timid music.
Paradise Lost were onto something with their debut record. Unfortunately, they threw that away to experiment and ended up creating something much less impressive, even though it seems to have appealed to more people in the long run. The best thing about Gothic may be the albums that were inspired by it, such as Dance of December Souls, from Katatonia. At least they managed to utilize this approach a lot better and to create something gloomy and memorable. Despite the use of harsh vocals, it would not be correct to label this as Death/Doom. It is very soft and weak and includes too many goth rock influences. There is only one decent song on here, which is a travesty considering how good Lost Paradise was. At any rate, anyone familiar with this band knows just how inconsistent their albums were, before they completely sold out, so it should come as no surprise. If you want something dark and/or melancholic, avoid this.