Paradise Lost - The Anatomy of Melancholy [Century Media - 2008]
English veterans Paradise Lost are back, this time with a live offering recorded last year in London. It’s been a long road: banished from some circles, unwelcome to others, accused of treason by metal fans, regarded as sellouts for works like Host and Believe in Nothing, credited for the pioneering of the doom/death metal blend that is so fashionable these days, much has been said about the British quintet. Besides having taken its name from the great poem by John Milton and naming this live album after Robert Burton’s literary masterpiece from 1621, I would not attempt an academic analysis of the contents of Paradise Lost’s body of work. Though I am well aware that many of their fans consider singer Nick Holmes a poet, a tormented artist in the fashion of Romanticism, my standards are sharp enough to let me ignore the unfathomable abyss that stands between these two English cornerstones and the cartoonish lightlessness of Holmes’ uttering. To Caesar what is Caesar’s, so I have heard.
I have long admired Paradise Lost: they are, after all, a very fine rock n’ roll band, and their weakest albums are still well rounded collections of songs. That’s what they are all about: songs, good loud rock songs to be sung along with. Never mind which direction they are to take next, for I know that wherever they go they will bring us a handful of good songs. My judgment is, some might say, simplistic, with which I could agree to some extent. My point is that like Depeche Mode, one of PL’s obvious post-Draconian Times musical references, and with the exception of few of their songs, the darkness of their music is uplifting. Since I cannot smile at suffering and wish darkness to surround me, I simply take their happy uplifting obscurity as a dubious one. That darkness works well as far as fixing choruses in one’s mind, but potentially it cannot be felt as such. It’s simply rock n’ roll at its best: danceable rocking tunes drawing resources from different branches of the Tree of Music. Just don’t expect me to cry when you are making me dance or “rock”.
This pondered, I think Paradise Lost excels the quality of most of the bands they drew inspiration from, virtually all of 80s gothic rock and also many of its metal peers. Anatomy of Melancholy is a good introduction to the band, played with gusto and passion. The set list is also a good surprise, with tunes spanning from cult albums like Shades of God (As I Die and Pity the Sadness), Icon and Gothic, to everyone’s favorite Draconian Times (I could uselessly argue that the non-inclusion of the awesome Hallowed Land and I See Your Face is a mistake…), the controversial years of One Second (whose title track is a favorite of this writer), Host and Believe in Nothing and the three excellent recent efforts, Symbol of Life (Erased indeed is a very fine song), Paradise Lost and last year’s In Requiem. As it is common to Englishmen, Holmes announces the songs with irony and wit. Unfortunately his talent as mass entertainer does not prevent him from singing out of tune or losing his voice throughout the performance, but this is pure raw rock n’ roll energy, and I urge the listeners to take is as such. Above all, this is great entertainment, and I’m happy to cite an essay Sir Thomas Macaulay wrote on Milton in 1825, whose judgment is applicable to Paradise Lost, the band: “where he is least happy, his failure seems to arise from the carelessness of a native, not from the ignorance of a foreigner”. They are in the business, and ready to entertain us with strangely joyful melancholy.