With their fifth full-length, Paradise Lost managed to find success in failure. Released in June 1995, Draconian Times continued the unfortunate progression of a band that had started out with such promise. This record was the point where the band really settled into their cleaner style, rather than sounding as awkward as they did on Icon. Yet this came at a price, for the music became even more watered-down to a point.
The songwriting is really troubling for those that appreciated the earlier works of Paradise Lost. There are a few traces of doom left, but it has mostly been replaced by goth rock that has a distinctively pop-oriented feeling during much of its forty-eight minute running time. With that said, the compositions are actually more solid than on the previous record, so it would seem that they really found their comfort zone with this (or that coming up with pop music was just easier for them). Many of the riffs are very predictable and cheesy in a way. Everything seems designed to be catchy, as is usually the case with bands trying to appeal to a wider audience. The percussion plays a strong role in making the music sound more light and weak, somehow. It is way too upbeat and kills several sombre melodies, such as on "Shades of God". The vocals are even softer and more melodic, for the most part, though it suits the music and it sounds like Holmes finally learned how to sing. The similarities to James Hetfield are still there, particularly when he tries to sound more forceful. Sorry to say since this is even less metallic at times, but Paradise Lost manages to create a more consistently gloomy atmosphere on this record, as opposed to the last one. Songs like "Enchantment", "Forever Failure" "Hands of Reason" and "Jaded" are among the more tolerable ones on here, for whatever it is worth.
The production is more powerful than on Icon, with a sharper sound and increased clarity in just about every possible way. In other words, this couldn't sound more plastic and modern if it tried. Their budget must have increased a lot in those two years, because this is almost bordering on Black Album levels. Whatever authentic feeling this could have possessed was completely lost due to this overdone production. However, it really is appropriate as the whole album really sounds like it was designed more as a commercial product than as an artistic statement or an attempt to really create a dark atmosphere.
Draconian Times is where all the pieces fell into place for Paradise Lost. Unfortunately, it meant that they finally found a way to mix modern Metallica with The Sisters of Mercy and to sound as plastic as possible. Many even consider this to be the band's last good album for a decade or so, though even they were never very consistent after their debut. They only eventually found a sense of consistency in their own mediocrity. While it is much heavier than what was to come, it is still a complete disgrace for a band that was responsible for the brilliant Lost Paradise. As for this cleaner style of theirs, they have actually done this a lot better on the more recent albums, so those are more worth your time if you are into this.