The SBR Guide to Paradise Lost – Discography Breakdown

Yorkshire’s Paradise Lost are one of the most influential bands of the last thirty years. Goth metal and death-doom would be nothing without their innovation. They’ve experienced the highs of stadium pomp and mainstream success in mainland Europe and lived through a mid-career slump in the early noughties that once looked irreversible. 

Now back again on the spectrum of extreme metal, the last decade brought re-invigoration and another cycle of influence on the likes of Pallbearer and even Nightwish. We all know there’d be no Cradle of Filth or Lacuna Coil without Paradise Lost, which is a testament to the band’s influence on a broad canvass of artists in the metal genre. But now on their sixteenth album, we wonder if they’re on the cusp of a fourth phase in their career.

Scream Blast Repeat look at the Paradise Lost discography to guide you through the band’s awesome studio output. With their new album, Obsidian, due out on 15 May 2020, we feel it’s time to bring light to the uninitiated. 

We hope you’ll agree the band deserve their place alongside the true greats of the Metal genre.

Lost Paradise (1990)

This is where the band created the foundations of the death-doom style. Riffs grind and crawl like a re-animated cadaver released from death’s slumber and Nick Holmes sounds like a demon unleashed. The rawness of his delivery is at times terrifying. Hammy’s production is objectively crap yet has its charm in the coldness of the atmosphere created. It’s as if they filtered Celtic Frost and Autopsy through the misery of a post-industrial Yorkshire landscape. Think Tom G Warrior raised, not on Baudelaire and Bordeaux, but on Ted Hughes and pints of bitter. The band did not emerge fully formed but were learning their craft on this debut offering. However, ‘Rotting Misery’ paves the way for the releases to come and ‘Breeding Fear’ is our first introduction to female backing vocals. The boys from Halifax produced a competent effort, however, their first great release was to follow.


Gothic (1991)

The album that built upon Celtic Frost’s Into the Pandemonium to invent a new sub-genre known as goth metal. Here the band hired female vocalist, Sarah Marrion, to add her haunting lullabies to a savage mix of grimy doom metal and death metal nastiness. People forget just how extreme this album sounds with Nick Holmes growls reminiscent of Frankenstein’s creature bellowing in the face of a new-born child. The title track spawned many imitators with its symphonic keyboards and distorted sludge, but no band ever came near to the malevolence on offer here. ‘Dead Emotion’, ‘Falling Forever’ and ‘Eternal’ are bona fide classics in the band’s back catalogue. Cradle of Filth, Katatonia, Anathema and hundreds of other European metal bands made this a cornerstone of their sound at the start of their careers. Every metalhead should own this album.


Shades of God (1992)

How to follow a genre defining album? Take the ambience of Gothic and meld it with Black Sabbath and Trouble. This is PL’s Master of Reality, where the riff is king, and Gregor Mackintosh is its willing servant. Here he delivers the performance of his life with complex song structures and solos aplenty. Nick Holmes voice appears in transition, with his tone still filled with gravel but heading towards the cleans employed on the following releases. Simon Efemey finds himself in the producer’s chair for the first time, and Dave McKean adorns the album with the first great cover in PL’s career. ‘Mortals Watch The Day’, ‘Crying for Eternity’ and ‘Pity the Sadness’ rank as high as any of the band’s tracks and ‘As I Die’ hints at the hit singles to follow.  This is a glorious and often overlooked Paradise Lost album but stands as one of their strongest releases.


Icon (1993)

The album that broke them in Germany, entering the charts at number 31. Not bad for a band that started off as an evil sounding death-doom band only five years earlier. Many fans consider this their masterwork with its successful blend of the gothic with the mid-tempo thrash of Metallica. The first half of the album is near perfection with ‘Embers Fire’, ‘Remembrance’ and ‘Forging Sympathies’ as good as anything they’d produced to date. However, the second half of the album begins to lag and relies on a formulaic approach that’s only broken with the majestic goth sensibilities of ‘Christendom’ and ‘Deus Misereatur.’ Nick Holmes renounces the death vocals on this record and starts to emerge as a gravel-throated rock star. Gregor Mackintosh is beginning to tire of the guitar solos, but the riffs are still colossal. At least five of the songs on this album are essential listening.


Draconian Times (1995)

Taking the blueprint set on Icon, the band refined their sound on Draconian Times. Summoning the Sisters Of Mercy and filtering all they’d learned through Gregor’s distinctive guitar tone, this was the band’s commercial high point (and for many their best album). Multiple bands would take a heavy influence from this record, most notably Nightwish, Lacuna Coil and Draconian. ‘Enchantment’, ‘Hallowed Land’, ‘The Last Time’ and ‘Forever Failure’ open the album to perfection. However, the benchmark is so high at the beginning and the rest of the album never quite scales these heights, even though the remaining tracks are all strong. Many fell in love with the band on this release as they honed and shaped the signature Paradise Lost sound into a more professional and identifiable form. An imperfect yet vitally important album.


One Second (1997)

Second only to Metallica in album sales in mainland Europe following the success of Draconian Times, the band entered the first stage in their career at a crossroads. How could they win more mainstream exposure yet still sound like the Paradise Lost so loved in the underground? Cutting their hair short, ditching the metal riffs and embracing the dark synths of Depeche Mode was a risky strategy, but one that worked at the beginning of a new era we’ll call Paradise Lost, Phase II. The Sisters of Mercy were all over this record from ‘Say Just Words’ through to ‘This Cold Life’. Distorted guitars prevailed, but now firmly from the heavy rock canon, sometimes fading too far into the background. You wonder if rhythm guitarist, Aaron Aedy, switched off at this point with his services seeming redundant. But Holmes’ choruses on ‘Mercy’ and ‘Soul Courageous’ are some of the finest performances on record. A welcome evolution in the band’s sound, but one that would begin their limbo of where to go next.


Host (1999)

Bringing in producer, Steve Lyon (Depeche Mode, Recoil and The Cure), had a heavy influence on the band’s sound. But it still came as a surprise when they ditched the guitars and embraced a gloomy synthpop direction. The media panned Host on release and asked what happened to the band we’d all fallen in love with? It’s easy to see why: tracks like ‘So Much is Lost’ point to the lack of direction that Nick Holmes attributes to this period. Yet, in hindsight, there is a lot to love here. ‘Behind The Grey’ should have been a hit and ‘It’s Too Late’ is the finest ballad the band has ever written. Nick Holmes lyrics are also some of his best, and he challenges his vocal range throughout. As a standalone album this is a strong release, but it just doesn’t sound like our beloved Paradise Lost.


Believe in Nothing (2001)

The most difficult period in the band’s career. Nu metal was at its height, the thrash bands in disarray, death metal producing its second wave, and black metal coming to terms with Emperor’s break up. Most bands embraced keyboards and industrial sounds for a way out of the mire. Not Paradise Lost. Locked into a deal with EMI Germany, they had to deliver a commercial return worthy of their budget, yet they couldn’t decide on the band’s DNA. Should they reach out to their metal audience, the mainstream rock crowd or the Euro-goth fraternity? They attempted to satisfy the latter two and pleased nobody. ‘Mouth’ and ‘Something Real’ are tolerable, but the polish is too overbearing, and the song-writing never deviates from the hit radio mentality of verse-chorus structures. The band’s worst effort and one that is forgettable after one listen.


Symbol of Life (2002)

Paradise Lost needed a reboot after the disastrous Believe In Nothing, so the band brought in Frontline Assembly guru Rhys Fulber as producer to oversee a much needed improvement. Rhys’ involvement seemed to reinvigorate them; his production brought the guitars to the forefront again and added contemporary industrial ambiance to the soundscape. This time the electronic elements and verse chorus structures sounded more focused as well. Symbol of Life opens strongly with ‘Isolate’ and ‘Erased’ and further standouts are ‘Pray Nightfall’ and the industrial ‘Perfect Mask’. Praise should also go to the inclusion of Dead Can Dances ‘Xavier’ as a bonus track. Unfortunately, the album drags near the end as most of the songs fail to stand out. Indeed, they often play out like a poor man’s One Second, with all the sheen and formula, but not quite nailing the song-writing specifics. Paradise Lost were not reaching the heights of yesteryear but were on the start of their journey to redemption.


Paradise Lost (2005)

A sign the band were starting to reappraise their metal roots. Most members started to look like metallers once again and Gregor Mackintosh upped the crunchy guitar riffs for the first time since Draconian Times. The first four songs are a return to form with gothic keyboards, heavy guitars and plenty of oomph in Nick Holmes’ throat. ‘Close Your Eyes’ might be their best song of the noughties. But the record falls flat from track seven to twelve, relying too much on the verse-chorus format when more progressive song-writing would have been a better option. BMG had no scruples in ditching them after this disjointed affair.


In Requiem (2007)

This was the last album with Rhys Fulber in the producer’s chair, and the best material he oversaw. The return to their doom roots started on this release, but the sound as a whole is more akin to Draconian Times. Guitars are truly at the forefront in the mix and the electronic elements scaled back to act as background accompaniment. ‘The Enemy’ has a fantastic chorus that gets stuck in your head for days, while ‘Requiem’ and ‘Prelude to Descent’ hint at a return to their doom heyday with more melodic choruses. At 46 minutes the album is a perfect length and devoid of any real filler. The band would go on to produce better albums than this in the coming years, but In Requiem is where they started their renaissance.


Faith Divides Us, Death Unites Us (2009)

The spiritual successor to Shades of God, this album was a return to extreme metal. Mackintosh and Aedy adopted seven-string guitars and down-tuned their riffs to flesh out Paradise Lost, Phase III – a touring monolith revered by a third generation of metal bands influenced by their re-emergence on In Requiem. The riffs are monumental, the vocals as good as ever, the choruses laced with guttural precision. Yet the melancholy of Draconian Times hovers in the background throughout. ‘Living with Scars’ is their best metal song of the last twenty years; ‘I Remain’ is Black album-era Metallica with more stomp; ‘The Rise of Denial’ is a lesson in how to pull a chorus out of a heavy arrangement. To call this a return to form is an understatement. This is one of the best albums of the noughties in any genre of metal.


Tragic Idol (2013)

PL now had the attention of the metal press again after the previous offering. Tragic Idol continued the flow into heavier waters yet displayed a confidence in all they’d learnt throughout the last decade. Opener, ‘Solitary One’, is a nod to the mid-2000s with its keyboard-led chorus, but reeks of the doomier new direction prevalent throughout this album. ‘Crucify’ and ‘Honesty In Death’ are examples of how much more comfortable the band are in keeping the arrangements heavy while inviting you to sing the choruses aloud. The album closes strongly, with the title track and ‘Worth Fighting For’ providing a one-two punch to the auditory senses. Initially seeming one dimensional in its song-writing, the hooks draw you in the more you listen. A top-class effort.


The Plague Within (2015)

Another highlight in the band’s career, not least in the Paradise Lost, Phase III era. With At The Gates legend, Adrian Erlandsson, on the drum stool for the second successive album, this was never going to disappoint. Fans jumped for joy when they heard Nick Holmes unleashing his death growls for the first time since Gothic. Mackintosh revels in his down-tuned domain with a nod to Chicago doom legends, Trouble, along the way. Apart from the tedium of plodder, ‘Beneath Broken Earth’, there are no weak spots here. ‘Punishment Through Time’ is a metallic frenzy coated in 70s swagger while ‘Cry Out’ and ‘Return to the Sun’ shroud the listener in the Celtic Frost darkness the band embraced at the beginning of their career. You’ll find it hard to recall a time when the Yorkshiremen once imitated Depeche Mode in the late 90s.


Medusa (2018)

Medusa saw the band coming almost full circle to Lost Paradise. Death growls are back in full force as the band slow the pace to a funeral march. Yet Nick Holmes’ unmistakeable cleans shine like a hopeful guide through the darkness and stop the album from feeling one-paced. Gregor Mackintosh’s Vallenfyre project haunts this work and its influence extends beyond drummer Waltteri Väyrynen joining the long-established line up. The pace quickens on ‘Blood and Chaos’, yet the highlights are the brooding 8-minute opener, ‘Fearless Sky’, and the hard hitting ‘The Longest Winter’. It shows how the band have honed their craft over thirty years and still sound fresh. This proves PL are not just idols of a dying age, but an outfit that excites and entices you with what might come next. Is this the end of Phase III, and if so, what can we expect from here?


*** Paradise Lost’s sixteenth album, Obisdian, is available on Nuclear Blast from 15 May 2020 ***