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Paradise Lost : One Second (20th Anniversary Edition)

Irony: recommending a throwback Gothic Rock album as the best of Death/Doom forefathers Paradise Lost's pre-millennial output.

With the benefit of hindsight, it's actually quite easy to see how 'One Second' followed 'Draconian Times': it's the leap from there to the turgid, strained-sounding synth-pop of 'Host' which still remains fairly inexplicable. Still, at the time, that lamentable attempt to seemingly follow in Depeche Mode's rather more substantial 'Violator' footsteps was some way in the future, and it was 'One Second' which took much of the brunt of initial criticism over Paradise Lost's "metal sell-out".

At this point I should probably mention that it's actually my favourite of all their albums, and always has been, notwithstanding the inarguably classic and influential Doom output which preceded it. Whether or not you consider Paradise Lost to have shaped Gothic Metal, and the Gothic/Doom crossover - still a subject of some controversy and a certain amount of retrofitting labels that were never applied at the time (though Wikipedia will happily present it as an established fact these days) - there is no doubt at all of their position at the cornerstone of Death/Doom, or of the sheer number of bands that have gone on to reference them as a key inspiration.

Even so, prior to 'One Second', their discography was something of a chequered affair. It always seemed to meander, not so much evolving towards any particular goal, but more moving away from experimental directions that almost, but never quite completely, gelled. The ultra-heavy subterranea of the earliest slowed-down Death Metal became flirtations with accessibility, the changes of vocal and musical style sometimes worked and sometimes came across as simply patchy. They could, and did, come up with individually brilliant tracks, yet somehow failed to ever sustain that over a full album - and that was why, unlike their Peaceville contemporaries, I seldom listened to, or enjoyed, any of the full-length releases, far preferring to dip in and out of favourite songs. Until this album, which was the first that - to me - sounded complete. Sure, it owed more to '80s-based Gothic Rock than Death/Doom (or indeed, any sort of metal), but that wasn't a problem for a longstanding Sisters/Nephilim et al fan. It had a bit of a 'Vision Thing' vibe, the band seemed entirely comfortable with mixing up a bassy, synth-laden Goth groove, and Nick Holmes finally sounded like he'd found a vocal delivery that really played to his strengths. And so it flowed consistently, as a full-length, in a way none of the previous offerings really did.

I guess I wasn't the only one who felt that way, given that this is still one of Paradise Lost's most successful albums, and one which broke top ten in a number of European charts. And I guess I can also sympathise with why the Doom underground saw it as something of a betrayal of values: making it a real love-or-hate prospect; regardless of how proficiently put together, the direction of travel was never likely to please many of the 'Gothic'-to-'Draconian...' faithful, never mind the long-abandoned Lost Paradisers. Well, that's an issue of taste, and one that no 20-years-on review is going to address. If you hated it then, you'll probably still hate it now, and no amount of fancy packaging will change that.

For the rest, or those who may never have come across the album before: this isn't a bad way to discover it. It's got the original hefty full-lyrics-and-illustrations Music For Nations booklet woven into a two-CD digibook format, alongside a much briefer page detailing the second disc's contents (taken from a 1998 live performance previously only available on the 2002 'Evolve' DVD). The album itself has been remastered - in practice, just a few tweaks to give it a bit more mid-range, body and loudness; frankly, a difference that you'd hardly notice if you're used to playing the original loud. The live disc sounds identical to the DVD to my ears: taken, as it was, some time after the release, the audience that found their way there were fairly supportive of both new and older material, and the versions on offer are presented with a reasonable clarity and heft. It's not something I'd listen to very often, if I'm honest - just as I very seldom dig out the original DVD - in many ways, it simply reinforces my opinion that although Paradise Lost couldn't have been what they were without Nick Holmes, I still find him one of the least versatile or convincing frontmen of all the classic '90s Doom bands.

If you've gathered from the tone of this review that I find Paradise Lost...difficult...then you'd be absolutely correct. Of all the founding fathers of extreme Doom, they're about my least favourite, and I do sometimes struggle to reconcile their incredible influence on the scene with what I actually hear when I listen to their discography. History belongs to the victors, though, and as a Doom guy, I certainly wouldn't deny them their triumphant mark on the scene. If it's therefore ironic to be recommending this most throwback Gothic Rock album as the highlight of their pre-millennial career, then so be it - it simply ticked my boxes, then and now. Even so, I can't really see why you'd especially need this version if you've got the original, and particularly if you also have the live DVD: there's really nothing of outstanding additional value to justify a repurchase. But, if not, it's certainly not a bad way to get acquainted with what I'd consider to be a seminal and classic release - if not, ultimately, a 'real Doom' one.

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Reviewer's rating: 9/10


Tracklist :
Disc One: One Second
1. One Second
2. Say Just Words
3. Lydia
4. Mercy
5. Soul Courageous
6. Another Day
7. The Sufferer
8. This Cold Life
9. Blood Of Another
10. Disappear
11. Sane
12. Take Me Down
Disc Two: Live At Shepherd's Bush Empire
1. Say Just Words
2. Hallowed Land
3. Blood Of Another
4. True Belief
5. Disappear
6. Lydia
7. Dying Freedom
8. Mercy
9. Shadowkings
10. The Sufferer
11. Remembrance
12. Forever Failure
13. Soul Courageous
14. One Second
15. This Cold Life
16. Embers Fire
17. As I Die
18. The Last Time

Duration : Approx. 125 minutes

Visit the Paradise Lost bandpage.

Reviewed on 2017-08-28 by Mike Liassides
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