Paradise Lost: Tragic Illusion 25 (The Rarities)(Century Media)
To mark their 25th anniversary Paradise Lost have issued a rarities album. It’s okay but a really good Best Of would have been a more fitting tribute says Dannii Leivers.
After 25 years of purveying majestic gothic metal, Paradise Lost have a kingdom of glories to survey. Along with doom contemporaries Cathedral and Anathema, they became figureheads for a genre with their 1991 album Gothic, then transformed their sound from spewing doom sludge to polished, melodic gothic metal with the dark beauty of breakthrough album Draconian Times. They had superlatives flung at them for that record; classic, essential, genre defining – while its tracks Enchantment, Hallowed Land and Forever Failure went on to become some of the bands most loved moments. They influenced anyone with a dark heart and penchant for atmosphere, from Lacuna Coil to HIM to Katatonia. And for more than two decades they’ve pushed their own boundaries, experimenting with electronic leanings on One Second, Host and Symbol of Life, and returning to master their trademark glossy, anthemic sound with In Requiem and Faith Divides Us – Death Unites Us,
So with such a far reaching and seminal career behind them Paradise Lost have the back catalogue to cherry pick themselves an excellent Best Of. It’s a little strange then that instead they’ve chosen to mark their quarter century with Tragic Illusion 25 (The Rarities), a selection of bonus tracks from previous albums, covers and reworkings.
Luckily, the Yorkshire five piece have rarely wobbled when it comes to quality and consistency, and many of these tracks reflect just how high they’ve set their own bar. Some of the tracks here will be new to some ears, particularly new track, the wonderfully doomy Loneliness Remains, while the glorious stomp of Ending Through Changes and the claustrophobic grit of Cardinal Zero only appeared on Japanese album versions. During promotion for this record, guitarist Aaron Aody commented that the latter didn’t quite “make the cut” for Faith Divides Us – Death Unites Us due to its different vibe (at times it does sound very Metallicaesque). And while with other bands material left on the cutting room floor is usually best left there this track doesn’t feel like it deserved to be left behind.
Still, fans will have already heard the majority of the rest of these songs if they forked out for special editions of Tragic Idol, In Requiem and Faith Divides Us – Death Unites Us. Aside from a strange choice of covers – Paradise Lost’s cover of 80’s electro classic Smalltown Boy by Bronski Beat and How Soon Is Now by The Smiths are far superior to the two covers chosen to appear here – a version of Spear of Destiny‘s Never Take Me Alive and Everything But The Girl’s Missing, the real key selling point of this album is the reworking of tracks Our Saviour and Gothic, from the bands crushingly heavy debut Lost Paradise and Gothic respectively. Dusted off to be practiced, presumably for the upcoming Tragic Illusion 25 tour, the band decided to rerecord the two tracks with new production from early PL producer Simon Efemey. Although its the original sluggish production these two tracks that made them so crushingly heavy in the first place, a crisper sound does little to lessen the blow of their brutality, while its great to hear vocalist Nick Holmes wheel out the death growl vocals he employed on the bands early recordings again.
Yet, although Tragic Illusion 25 is a nice collection of lesser heard and known tracks from the band, you cant help but feel it slightly misses the crux of just how great Paradise Lost are by not compiling their truly breath taking moments. Nevertheless, its a nice accompaniment to a back catalogue already bulging with moments of brilliance.
All writing by Dannii Leivers. More work by Dannii on Louder Than War can be found at her author’s archive.