ALBUM REVIEW: Paradise Lost – Icon 30


 

Named after the epic 17th-century biblical poem by John Milton, Paradise Lost are without a doubt one of the real success stories of British Heavy Metal.

 

A band best known as one of the pioneers of the Gothic Metal sound that had their roots in the early Death Metal scene, but found their way upon a different path along with bands including My Dying Bride and Anathema, they purveyed a dismal and doomier style that would incorporate a strong influence from the likes of Sisters Of Mercy and the eighties goth scene.

They signed to Peaceville Records in 1989 and released two legendary albums, Lost Paradise (1990) and Gothic (1991) before moving across to Music For Nations and releasing Shades Of God in 1992.

It was with this album that a real change in the style of vocalist Nick Holmes began to surface and the obvious shift away from their early Death-Doom sound was clear. A highly successful period for the band would follow during a changing time in music, and Paradise Lost would next provide two of the strongest records in their catalogue: Icon (1993) and Draconian Times (1995), while enjoying major exposure touring the world and finding themselves as a sought-after festival act.

Great times for the band no doubt, and with 2023 marking the 30th anniversary of Icon, Paradise Lost have taken it upon themselves to re-record and re-release their crown jewel.

Back in 1993, everything the band delivered on Icon really epitomised the sound they are best known for today, and the sound they would creatively peak with on Draconian Times.

 

 

Icon begins with “Embers Fire,” one of the finest songs in an illustrious career that has so far delivered seventeen studio albums. Holmes’s vocal delivery was definitely starting to draw comparisons with the style of James Hetfield on Metallica’s seminal self-titled / “Black” album (1991) record, and the song is characterised by the sumptuous lead guitar work of Gregor Mackintosh, whose often simple yet devastatingly effective Wah-heavy hooks would become a trademark of the Paradise Lost sound.

“Embers Fire” certainly lays the blueprint for a winning formula on the record as it flies through songs including “Remembrance,” “Forging Sympathy” and “Dying Freedom,” which all follow a similar method.

In addition, Icon also provides two other stonewall Paradise Lost classics which have stood the test of time and have remained highlights of their live shows over the last 30 years, “Widow” and “True Belief.”

And why would the band re-record such a perfect album you might ask? Well in the words of Holmes, “Our specific record deal around the time we signed for the Icon album meant we would never actually own the rights to our music or artwork, so going forward to reissue the album ourselves for the 30th anniversary it was necessary to re-record and completely re-do the album cover.”

And the result?

Well the songs have not really noticeably been altered too much, however 30 years on, the sound the band have produced is naturally richer in tone.

Holmes’s vocals, which were still somewhat finding their way in 1993, are improved upon as the singer clearly has the experience of another 30 years on his side, while the guitars of Mackintosh and Aaron Aedy unquestionably sound richer, while also having been tweaked to absolute perfection.

Perhaps the strongest comparative difference lies with the drums. Icon would be the final album recorded with original drummer Matthew Archer, and the work here of Guido Montanarini is noticeably fuller in tone.

By improving the overall sound, Paradise Lost have given their classic material a new lease of life. The differences may well be subtle but the songs have been tweaked just enough to make it sound different enough to be well-worth your time.

Buy the album here:

https://www.paradiselost.co.uk/

 

9 / 10

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