) Music For Nations
In this record, the Halifax (UK)-based Paradise Lost managed to create a record that was both a crowd-pleaser and critically acclaimed, selling over one million copies without MTV playtime. Combining both their historical roots, gothic rock melodies and doom metal influences, Draconian Times is at the same time both raw and aggressive as well as contemplative and somber.
The sound of both Nick Holmes' vocals and the instruments were much improved on this album. In fact, from the first ethereal notes of the reverberated piano on Enchantment, which begins the record, the emotionality and feeling these songs convey is revealed. Guitars and keyboards weave seamlessly together, creating a fluid, almost liquid-like feel to the sound. Over these partly ethereal and partly heavy crunching sounds the powerful, accentuated singing carries the messages of the songs. The drumming has improved considerably from past Paradise Lost records as well, with the new drummer Lee Morris combining powerful (traditional heavy metal) and technical, more experimental playing.
Draconian Times can be considered to be a heavy metal record. Certainly, the powerful, partly shouted vocals and open chords accentuated by strong snare drums and cymbals are characteristic of metal. However, the record is at the same time also extremely well-played gothic rock as well as a somber, ponderous lyrical exploration of solitude and failed expectations. This record marked the final transition of Paradise Lost from a metal band to a more progressive, experimental style of music. In many ways, Draconian Times is unique in its sound and content.
The value of Holmes' lyrics can be debated. They do provide interesting chances for exploration of meanings of words, emotions and beliefs through analysis of content (Enchantment, Hallowed Land) for example) they are at the same time in many cases quite simple and while beautifully constructed ("Begone the fools that lead me/I need not to know/Accept reclining spirit/I need to endure"), are sometimes quite hard to follow and understand in terms of actual content. Personally, I enjoy Holmes's vocal parts because they are indeed quite beautifully constructed and well-delivered.
Draconian Times is one of the finest "gothic" albums to date. Combining contemplation with anger, aggression with beauty, this record is very valuable in both musical and lyrical content. While showing the metal roots of what Paradise Lost was, the latter half of the record clearly shows the style that was to come on the next records.