Tragic Idol in no way emulates the dark simplicity of early albums such as Lost Paradise and Gothic, but nor does it walk the same path as their divisive mid-90s output, when electro-tinged albums like One Second and Host had long-serving fans scratching their heads and the band fending off accusations of chasing Depeche Mode dollar.
What it does however – expertly, naturally and beautifully – is blend the myriad styles and influences of Paradise Lost’s long career into one monster of a modern metal album. Edgy, yet accessible, Tragic Idol is the sound of a band planting its flag on the sacred ground it has been threatening to reclaim with recent albums.
As if buoyed by Gregor Mackintosh’s foray into old school British death metal with his Vallenfyre project, the guitars on Tragic Idol are dirty and brutal in tone, but melodic and deft in content with the hypnotic repetition of licks on tracks like “In This We Dwell” and the classy soloing that launches “To The Darkness” firmly announcing the band as mainstream contenders without once ever calling their metal credibility into doubt.
Also hugely impressive are the vocals of Nick Holmes. Whether belting out the huge hook of “Crucify,” spitting venom on the shockingly powerful “Theories From Another World” or swooning through the vaguely Type O Negative-like title track, it’s a tour de force of a performance and the finishing touch on an album with very few week points – even allowing for the odd Hetfield-like rasp here and there.
Paradise Lost probably won’t appreciate the Hetfield comparison any more than they’ll appreciate being reminded of their ever increasing status as elder statesmen of dark metal, but the bottom line remains that this is a band reaching the pinnacle of its career with class and style, proving beyond doubt that middle age does not necessarily have to result in crisis and middle of the road mediocrity.Maybe there’s a lesson for Hetfield and chums there.
Integrity? Check. Passion? Check. A marvelous album encapsulating everything great about Paradise Lost? Absolutely, check.
(released April 24, 2012 on Century Media Records)