Sunday, September 1, 2013

Paradise Lost - Lost Paradise (1990)

Written and recorded at the very end of the 1980s, Lost Paradise was released on Peaceville Records in January 1990. As the debut full-length from Paradise Lost, this L.P. not only put them on the map, it also helped to establish the new sub-genre known as Death/Doom. Though many would argue that the following album is the pinnacle of the band's career, this one is far more powerful and consistent. This record takes the work that began on Black Sabbath to one of its logical conclusions, mixed with the raw feeling of Satanic Rites

The songwriting is very solid, with not a single filler track to be found on here. Unlike many of the band's later efforts, or even those that were influenced by this, there is nothing pretty about Lost Paradise. This is dark, filthy and, at times, barbaric. The latter certainly applies to the vocal performance of Nick Holmes, whose voice is deep and yet somewhat throaty as well. Occasionally, the music is reminiscent of Autopsy, yet the dreadful atmosphere is much darker, accentuated by the hellish lead work. Even from the earliest days, the guitar playing of Gregor Mackintosh was one of the most easily identifiable aspects of the band's music. His contributions at a lot of depth to the songs. There is an intensity here that is unrivaled by anything these guys ever did after this. This is not the sort of Death/Doom that consists of mostly pretty melodies and goth influences, balanced out with harsh vocals. Every bit of this is utterly bleak and deathlike. That is one thing that was soon lost by those that followed; there is plenty of Death Metal here, as well as bits of Thrash. Naturally, the songs are dominated by slow or mid-paced sections, but the faster parts are never too far behind. This isn't the kind of "woe is me" approach that My Dying Bride would go on to make. This is more about the doom and gloom of this hellish existence to which we are all damned to suffer and die without hope. There is also an anti-religious element present in the lyrics.

"Where is your god now as you're dying alone"

This does well to capture the essence of this album. Songs like "Deadly Inner Sense" and "Rotting Misery" truly set the standard for this kind of music, possessed by monstrous riffs that drip with venomous doom and crush your very spirit. The subtle keys add a sense of horror to the music, done in a very tasteful manner. Again, the rough and savage vocals really add to the atmosphere, especially some of the raspier cries. Despite whatever they may say about this material now, there is a very genuine feeling present here. Things do get more gloomy as they progress, with a very desolate feeling prevailing by the time "Breeding Fear" comes along. There is a brief part that includes some female vocals. This, along with the more melancholic feeling of the title track, kind of foreshadows the path that they would follow with the next album.

The production is pretty raw, for what this is. It possesses a very rough sound, compared to a lot of the Death Metal that was released around the same time. The guitar tone is harsh and still very powerful. Thankfully, the lead guitar is not buried in the mix, as happens frequently with more underground releases. The bass is audible and adds to the murky feeling of the album. The drums are lead-heavy and really help to drive things forward. Of course, the vocals come across like some kind of inhuman roaring. Really, this record came out with the exact production job that was needed to best accentuate the material and the atmosphere that they were striving for. Anything overdone would have killed this, dead. By the same token, had everything not sounded so massive and strong, a lot would have been lost.

This is the definitive Paradise Lost album, never to be matched by anything else that they ever did. It is drenched in darkness and gloom, yet still possesses a brutal and aggressive side as well. Everything comes together, brilliantly, and this is the most solid display of songwriting that the band ever offered up. Lost Paradise is the epitome of Death/Doom and the best example of how this style should be played. If you have not picked this up and given it a thorough listen, do so as soon as possible.