A band of Paradise Lost’s stature should need no introduction. This legendary UK act has undergone probably more transformations and stylistic shifts of focus than almost all others who have been around as long as they have. With this I mind, let’s start with a disclaimer – any list like this is obviously subjective and subject to mood, but this one even more so than most. Ask me again to do this next week, or next month, or even tomorrow, and I’m pretty sure the placings will have changed for some of the albums. That is just how it is.
In some ways this was quite an impossible list to put together due to the wide variety of styles they have dabbled in over the years. Throughout their career Paradise Lost have continued to develop themselves and try new things, sometimes even going so far as to alienate large portions of their fanbase in the name of their art. As far as I’m concerned, whatever they’ve done they’ve remained a thoroughly enjoyable and individualistic band. Coming full circle over the last few years as they return to their heavier death/doom metal roots, there seems to be no stopping them.
15) Paradise Lost
After the experimental nature of many of the band’s preceding releases, their self-titled 2005 album marked a slight return to heavier waters, while still keeping many of the accoutrements developed over the previous years. Although a very enjoyable album, it’s probably my least favourite if only because it seems one of the band’s least developed and realised. There are, of course, still many good songs on it.
14) Believe in Nothing
This was a contender for last place along with the above Paradise Lost. After the distortion-less Host, Believe in Nothing reintroduced some rockier influences, but seemed to do so in a half-hearted way. Like Paradise Lost, there are some very good songs on this album, but overall it’s definitely one of their least memorable.
Although it’s probably heretical in some quarters that the band’s second album is so low on this list, it just isn’t up to the high quality standards of most of their work. Although it contains some good songs, (and the amazing “Eternal”), the production was a bit weak, and the vocal performance not the best.
12) Lost Paradise
I could almost write the exact same words here as I did for Gothic, with the only real changes being that this album doesn’t have “Eternal” on it, and paradoxically as it came before Gothic, the production values and vocal performances are both better on the band’s debut. This is proto-Paradise Lost, and although primitive, you can still see the potential.
11) In Requiem
Coming after the enjoyable-but-lacklustre Paradise Lost, In Requiem saw the band travel further into the heavier side of their sound, only this time with more confidence and determination. This album, and the two after it that I have ranked next in order of release, demonstrated a band that were well and truly becoming comfortable in their roles as purveyors of heavy, emotive Gothic metal. In Requiem, Faith Divides Us – Death Unites Us, and Tragic Idol form somewhat of an unofficial trilogy of ever-refined and improved metallic delights.
10) Faith Divides Us – Death Unites Us
I don’t have too much to say about this one after what I’ve said in the previous entry. Essentially a refined and better version of In Requiem, this is another solid album of anthemic tunes with endless hooks and catchiness.
9) Tragic Idol
Tragic Idol really took the formula that was developed on the previous two releases and perfected it. This was also the heaviest that Paradise Lost had sounded in years, presaging the band’s almost full return to their roots for their most recent two albums that came after this.
The band’s latest album is death/doom metal delivered by masters who know the style inside out, being so instrumental in its early development as they were. This is an extremely strong collection of songs, and like many albums on this list, hasn’t achieved a higher placing purely due to just how many great releases Paradise Lost have. In addition, as it is still quite new, this is potentially an album that would move up or down the list as I get to know it even more in the future.
7) Shades of God
This album really saw Paradise Lost consolidate all of their strengths and shed many of their weaknesses. It took everything good from Lost Paradise and Gothic, and put it in one place. Some of the songs on here are just outright classics, with “Mortals Watch the Day,” “Pity the Sadness,” and “As I Die” still being firm favourites of mine.
6) Symbol of Life
After the tentative, faltering Believe in Nothing, Symbol of Life strode forth full of confidence and passion. This is essentially an album of emotive rock, delivered with excellent songwriting and more infectious choruses than you can shake a wobbly stick at.
5) The Plague Within
The Plague Within saw the band fully embracing their heavier roots once more, with a return to growls alongside the more familiar singing. With a depth and variety of songs that took in many styles from their past, including some outright death and black metal influences here and there, (tell me that “Flesh from Bones” doesn’t remind you of Satyricon in places), The Plague Within is an immense and highly accomplished album from start to finish.
Icon was where the band truly first flourished. Building on the strengths of Shades of God, Icon is bigger, bolder, and more ambitious in every way. With the band’s songwriting skills fully fleshed out, this is an album of astonishing breadth, ambition, and accomplishment. Songs like “Embers Fire” and “True Belief” are still some of the best the band have written. This is also the era of the band that birthed one of my all-time favourite Paradise Lost songs – “Sweetness” – which appeared on their Seals the Sense EP shortly after the album came out.
3) Draconian Times
I really could not decide on whether this or Icon should get the third position, and I still haven’t really come to a definitive conclusion. Consider them almost interchangeable. Draconian Times built on what Icon accomplished and produced what is, in some ways, an even better album. This saw Paradise Lost at the height of their metallic powers, and it seemed there was no stopping their ascension at this point. But wait, as what they did next may surprise you…(ahem)
2) One Second
This is the controversial, (in some quarters), follow up to Draconian Times. While some people were predicting a continued meteoric rise to almost Metallica-esque levels of world domination following how well-received Icon and Draconian Times were, Paradise Lost instead took a left turn and produced an album of softer, more emotive Gothic rock. It may have divided many fans at the time, but what’s not up for debate (at least from my perspective) is how utterly stunning this album turned out to be. There’s not a dud on this album, and the entire thing contains so many exquisitely-crafted, hook-filled rock anthems, it’s just silly. One Second has been recently reissued for its 20th anniversary, so I urge you to check it out if you haven’t already. It is an almost perfect album.
And then came Host. If there was any controversy around Paradise Lost’s more mainstream proclivities on One Second, then that was nothing compared to what this album heralded. Experimental, subtle, and hugely atmospheric, this is an electronic pop-rock album, but with none of the empty fluff and all of the emotion and depth. All of it. Soft and gentle, the songs on Host are some of the most affecting and engaging that Paradise Lost have put their name too. In some ways, this album stands out so much from the rest of their material that it almost should have been a side project under a different name, but then Paradise Lost have never cared about what people think, and instead had the integrity to do what they wanted. Host is an album that is flawless and amazingly crafted. What more is there to say?