Faith Divides Us - Death Unites Us
posted on 12/2009 By:
Expanding upon In Requiem’s return to Draconian form, Faith Divides Us finds Paradise Lost stronger than they’ve been since releasing Draconian Times some fifteen years ago. For those not in the know, after that final installment in their streak of five consecutive classics, the band made a controversial split with extremity, moving in an electronic-tinged goth-rock direction and losing some fans in the process. The records they released during that decade-long digression weren’t bad, but they failed to uphold the legacy of the band that made them. In the end, they stood too many steps away from both metal as a whole and from their creators’ previous genre-defining brilliance.
From the outset of "As Horizons End," it's clear that Paradise Lost is firmly back on track, back to melding the melancholy, the epic and the crushing with an expertise unmatched by almost all others. Faith is a classic Paradise Lost album in the best sense of that phrase—the band’s patent gothic darkness and brooding romantic gloom pervade the record. Gregor Mackintosh's beautifully dreary guitar-work fits perfectly beneath Holmes' re-energized bellow and Hetfield-ian cleans. These tunes are massive, agonized and anthemic, somber and soaring, dark and dejected and yet strangely still uplifting, harkening back particularly to the last years of the band’s halcyon days without sounding retread or redundant. Where Paradise Lost has always exceeded their peers (including the other members of the Peaceville Three, I maintain) is in their ability to craft songs that are as memorable and inspiring as they are sorrowful. With Faith, Holmes and Mackintosh have turned in their best, most cohesive and interesting batch of songs since 1995. The electronic tinges of mid-period PL are avoided—and some would say “thankfully so”—but there are moments here and there that still make a few slight nods back to those late-90's releases. (Witness the bits of distant, distorted vocal in “First Light” or the moody bridge section of the stellar “I Remain” for examples, that latter track easily among the best the band has ever penned.) Jens Bogren’s production is stout, with sharp and solid guitar tones and a suitable sheen to fit the band’s melodic darkness.
Despite the band’s signature reliance upon melancholia, Faith isn’t all drudgery beneath its goth-romantic despair—like the best records in any style, its tracks fit snugly against one another with a singular focus that isn’t one-dimensional at all. Paradise Lost has always been adept at building dramatic tension even into mid- and up-tempo tunes, to swagger with a metallic drive even as they lamented the weight of the world upon them. Songs like “Frailty“ or the chugging “Universal Dream” or “The Rise Of Denial” rock as hard as they mope, the fleet-footed kick drums in the latter driving full-steam ahead beneath Holmes’ plaintive semi-melodic growls. (Drums on this record were handled by session player Peter Damin, and while his performance is rock-solid, I’m looking forward to the next record, as he’s since been replaced by At The Gates / The Haunted / Cradle Of Filth veteran Adrian Erlandsson.)
This return to more metallic shores is a more-than-welcome one to these ears, as the death/doom/goth metal triptych of Shades Of God, Icon and Draconian Times holds a special place in both my heart and my history. Faith isn’t as groundbreaking or as (ahem) iconic as the band’s earlier work, but it’s by far the best record they’ve made in many a mournful moon. They returned strong with In Requiem, and Faith finds them even stronger, so let’s hope this renewed momentum continues. With the possible exception of Katatonia, no metal band does sad and gloomy quite as expertly as Paradise Lost, and only in their best moments have these Brits bested this.
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