I’ve been following PARADISE LOST for many, many years now, actually since 1993, when an ad for car radios on, I believe, MTV (when it still was good) played “Embers Fire”, then I heard the irresistible guitar melody of “True Belief” and I was drawn towards this sound. Upon further investigation, this revealed the band’s breakthrough album “Icon” and I worked my way both forward and backwards from then on. “One Second” saw me lose interest and by the time “Host” wobbled through, my interest in the Britons was almost non-existent, as they embraced a far more electronic and poppy approach. 2007’s “In Requiem” rekindled my interest and now in 2009 “Faith Divides Us - Death Unites Us” is ready to vie for my attention and I have had fairly high hopes that the Yorkshire band would continue down a road moving forward while embracing their past again.
And I am very happy to say that “Faith Divides Us - Death Unites Us” exceeded my expectations, as it indeed continues on down the path that “In Requiem” had broken, combining some of the heaviness of old with the catchiness of later albums, but fully capturing the spirit of the era around “Icon” or “Draconian Times”, which suits me very fine, and “As Horizons End” could without any problems have stood on either of the two albums, with great, dense and bleak atmosphere and these haunting memories that will drill themselves into your brain never to leave again. If you needed any proof that this was not just a rehash of old times, you can take the more modern sound, courtesy of Jens Bogren, which is crisp, clear and powerful, giving the trademark melancholic guitar melodies the right place within the framework of musical mastery.
But PARADISE LOST do not stay predictable, oh no, because “Frailty” is one of the heaviest/fastest tracks that I’ve heard of them, accelerating all the way to double-bass embedded into the typical PL atmosphere of gloom, which is an equally surprising and welcome break out, something that “The Rise Of Denial” and “Living With Scars” also bring back, heavier doses of Metal injected into the album. But that does not mean that they neglect their trademarks, oh no, while “Living With Scars”, for example, has a chunkier arrangement when it comes to the fairly modern guitar sound, these wonderful atmospheric melodies and guitar lines are just to die for. And “Universal Dream”, which also is spiced with some faster passages, even picks up the theme of “Pity The Sadness” off “Shades Of God”, which is a very nice little detail. I personally like the band best, though, when they put more emphasis on the atmosphere to counterbalance the heavier guitars, take the wonderful sweeping arrangement of the title track or the beautiful elegy that is “Last Regret” or intense closer “In Truth” and let them take you away into the world of PARADISE LOST.
“Faith Divides Us - Death Unites Us” is definitely one of the highlights of this year and in my opinion the strongest effort ever since the Brits released “Draconian Times” in 1995, showing that there still is a lot of life in them. If you like your Gothic Metal intense, atmospheric and free from kitsch (and sopranos), then PARADISE LOST still (or again) is your band, this is a killer album!
(Online December 1, 2009)