Last Updated on 05:52 PM by Giorgos Tsekas
‘Icon’’s 30th anniversary brought a discussion on the limits of the rights on any artwork by a label (as we specifically talk about music). Yes we all agree that copyright laws are complicated but if Paradise Lost didn’t re-recorded ‘Icon’, (now entitled “Icon 30” that comes with a new emblematic artwork and cover), they would probably end up in the headlines due to allegations of improper use of their source material. Their own material…anyway as the subject seems rather simple to me but capitalism and the lawmakers can’t protect the originators through rights that would provide both artistic and economic protection that would ensure that artists can profit from what they’ve made and actually own their creations 100% (and legally) without to take any permission from anyone, but this discussion is literally a source of almost unending litigation. Back to music…as the 90’s is the most misconceived decade, despite the fact that it is one of the most experimental, innovating, daring, avant-garde and fringe eras of extreme sound, Paradise Lost couldn’t be leaders (as they were meant to be) but only poor followers if they wouldn’t have the guts to keep the evolution steps they start to walk in from “Gothic” -their sophomore full length effort, which came out via Peaceville in 1991- and gradually build an unbelievable climax with ‘Icon’ in 1993. It was these great releases that sharply peaked with ‘Icon’ that gave the characterization to be one of the pioneers of death/doom metal, alongside Anathema and My Dying Bride (sometimes known as ‘the Peaceville Three’). Still as it is even harder to stay on top rather than reach it Paradise Lost followed ‘Icon’ with Draconian Times another gem of Gothic Metal and still continue to release great albums until nowadays. So Paradise Lost chose commercially wise to leave Nick Holmes’ (impressive yet run-of-the-mill) hoarse vocals and use a pattern (in a darker tone) that James Hetfield used -and uses- that was (and still is) palatable and commonly accepted from the metal masses that is still a ferocious vocal performance despite its commercial acceptance. In 2008, speaking to Kerrang! about the album’s music, Nick Holmes remembered: “We were pretty much the first band to coin the phrase ‘gothic metal’ so I don’t have a problem with that label. We’ve actually done gothier albums than Icon, but if people want to say that it sums up something that’s fine with me. At the time there was also black metal, thrash metal and everyone wanted to describe what type of something was so we went ‘Okay, we’ve got The Sisters of Mercy elements in our music, let’s call it goth metal’. We were getting better as musicians as well and I was hopefully getting better as a vocalist. When that happens you want to fine-tune what you’re doing. It’s also about not wanting to get stuck or pigeonholed into one particular musical place. We’ve kept the whole gothic thing going right throughout our career, but we did want to do something a little different. With the vocals, a lot of it was kind of shouting in key as opposed to just shouting, it’s okay singing like Beelzebub, but your voice can get into trouble if you have a big tour.” Musically speaking their main composer Gregor Mackintosh (with songwriting confidence only -fools- and giants have) kept his main influence and the Celtic Frost inspired gothic atmospheres or the use of power chords and female vocals but he had now a new direction more melodic and dark with guitars being yet more heavy and melancholic as The Sisters of Mercy elements got stronger as never before for the band from Halifax. The sad and doomy riffs, the wah pedal and the lead parts had a principal role while (tapping) soloing was again marvellous. The refined production detached the raw power of their previous works, but the dynamic the songs had through up-tempo rhythm when needed and extra doses of gloom and sorrow in slower parts, strong lyrics and memorable haunting melodies made the album’s pervasiveness to extreme sound fans analogous to Guns ‘n Roses or Nirvana in underground circles. Lyrically Holmes is elegiac, mournful, with a feeling of vague or regretful longing and poetic, creating amazing images of loss and despair to the listener, making his work here, one of the main reasons why Paradise Lost is now considered to be a megatherium of Extreme Metal. The rhythm section is rock solid, and all musicianship seems to be incredibly accurate, significant to a band that has a vision and a plan in order to achieve it . While the guitars are definitely in the proscenium (and louder) still drumming is one of the highlights of the album as Matt Archer is here in a perfect shape giving a crescendo of thunderous drum playing in his swang song for the band. Probably the bass lines should get more attention in production yet they are audible, but not the best you would expect in an almost perfect album. ‘Icon’ is huge, an emblematic amalgam of excellent song crafting and depressive seminal poetry, ‘Icon’ is emotional in a way only Art can touch humans. Hymns like ‘True Belief’, ‘Widow’, ‘Embers Fire’, ‘Remembrance’ and ‘Colossal Rains’ , just can’t be written every day… ‘Icon’..is iconic !!!