Heavy metal’s ambassadors to the rain-soaked north of England, Paradise Lost have been Yorkshire’s masters of melancholy for more than 30 years. Their misery has manifested in so many forms over that time, too. From death-doom to goth metal to dance rock and then fascinating fusions of the three, there’s only one thing that’s ever guaranteed about an album by this lot: it’ll be sad as fuck.
With their discography being so diverse – not to mention vast, consisting of 16 records – we can’t blame the people that don’t know where to start. So here are our picks. Below is Hammer’s ranking of everything the band have done from worst to best.
16. Believe In Nothing (2001)
On paper, Believe In Nothing is far from bad. With it featuring the brevity of Mouth, the dynamism of Fader and the industrial stomp of Look At Me Now, it should tick a lot of the boxes needed to create compelling rock. The performances feel phoned in throughout, though, no doubt because of the personal strife the band members were weathering at the time. The lacklustre production only aggravates the problem.
15. Lost Paradise (1990)
In mixing death metal with the slow-paced solemnity of Candlemass, Paradise Lost’s debut album was a ground-breaking disc for its day. It also introduces some of the idiosyncrasies that would later distinguish the band, like the odd lead line from guitarist Greg Mackintosh and some ominous choirs. However, this early in the game, the Northerners hadn’t mastered the art of melody-making. As important as Lost Paradise is, its individual songs lack identity.
14. One Second (1997)
After touring Icon and Draconian Times incessantly, Paradise Lost grew sick of their own material. So, One Second emphasised keyboards over riffing and was their gentlest music when released. The title track and Say Just Words are must-listens, with Blood Of Another and Soul Courageous being underrated earworms. The one caveat is that near-hour-long runtime, since such cuts as Lydia and Take Me Down don’t add enough to be worthwhile.
13. Paradise Lost (2005)
Paradise Lost is self-titled for a reason. After a trilogy of albums dabbling in synthpop and industrial rock, it ostensibly marked the band’s return to goth metal. The issue is that electronic musician Rhys Fulber was the producer, and the emotion of potentially bleak anthems like Don’t Belong and Grey was eroded with a computerised scrub. The songs slay compositionally, but the end results sound too digital for their own good.
12. Medusa (2017)
After reintegrating death metal on The Plague Within fared remarkably, Greg Mackintosh promised the following album would be “slower, sludgier and more doom-filled”. That pursuit of darkness led to Medusa eschewing the band’s majestic melodies, though. As crushingly heavy as the likes of Fearless Sky and From The Gallows are, they can’t wedge their way into your memory, and only Blood And Chaos has persisted in the Paradise Lost setlist.
11. In Requiem (2007)
In Requiem is the true re-embrace of goth metal that Paradise Lost began pushing the band towards. Although producer Rhys Fulber returns, his electronic undercurrents are repeatedly overwhelmed by the power of the choirs, the guitars and Jeff Singer’s drumming. The Enemy and Requiem are the most imposing Paradise Lost had sounded since Icon, while Unreachable finds space to be danceable amidst the doom. Fallen Children’s strings are beautifully evocative, as well.
10. Host (1999)
Host is often maligned as Paradise Lost’s worst album because it ditched rock in favour of downtempo electro-pop. But, as a downtempo electro-pop record, it’s fucking stellar. If you can make it through So Much Is Lost without screaming along to the chorus, you’re a ghoul. Harbour’s minimalism lets its strings pluck at your heart, before Wreck offers a fusion of Vangelis and Depeche Mode the world never knew it needed.
9. Faith Divides Us – Death Unites Us (2009)
It hurts to rank something this excellent this low, particularly since Faith Divides Us… was Paradise Lost’s most timelessly miserable-sounding metal album in aeons. The title track is the song that found immortality by crescendoing from guitar strums to a multi-layered chorus, yet there are hidden gems strewn throughout these 46 minutes. With Greg Mackintosh’s lead playing more prominent in the mix, Paradise Lost well and truly returned to form.
8. Tragic Idol (2012)
Tragic Idol is basically the rawer, angrier sibling of Faith Divides Us…. Solitary One flaunts from the off that Nick Holmes had rediscovered the kind of bark he’d previously ditched after Icon. Then, Fear Of Impending Hell, Honesty In Death and In This We Dwell especially are episodes of the most immense energy, their tempo possibly picked up by the addition of At The Gates drummer Adrian Erlandsson to the band.
7. Symbol Of Life (2002)
The years between 1999 and 2002 are widely regarded as when Paradise Lost drowned in a sea of confusingly disparate electronica. However, Symbol Of Life is a top-shelf dance rock record. Isolate is the best (and heaviest) Depeche Mode song that Depeche Mode never wrote, Self-Obsessed is upfront and energetic enough to cram a 2000s nightclub dance floor, and that Smalltown Boy cover is an aptly gloomy reinvention of a synthpop classic.
6. Icon (1993)
Paradise Lost fit more standout songs into Icon than most bands do into a whole career. Embers Fire, True Belief and Widow in particular were perfectly placed for where metal was in 1993: they endowed grooving, barking, Black Album-esque heaviness with overtones of introversion you could only otherwise find in grunge. Mainstream critics and MTV were basically forced to take notice of the band after this.
5. The Plague Within (2015)
Between Tragic Idol and The Plague Within, Greg Mackintosh and Nick Holmes recorded death metal albums with Vallenfyre and Bloodbath, respectively. That energy doubtlessly fed into Paradise Lost’s 14th album, which exacerbates the desolation of Faith Divides Us… and Tragic Idol with its bowel-quaking growls. Furthermore, every song demands your attention differently, from the crawl of Beneath Broken Earth to the orchestral bombast of An Eternity Of Lies.
4. Obsidian (2020)
Obsidian feels like the album Paradise Lost were building up to for their entire career. Everything that’s ever given them their appeal returns during these nine songs. Fall From Grace leaps off of a hopeless-sounding guitar melody and casts roars against an infectious chorus, then Nick Holmes’ vocal lines on The Devil Embraced evoke flashbacks to Draconian Times. Ghosts even revives the band’s turn-of-the-millennium dance rock flirtations. It’s brilliantly, diversely depressing.
3. Shades Of God (1992)
Shades Of God was the first indication that one soundscape would never be big enough for Paradise Lost, as it pushed the band into thrash, goth and even prog territory. Considering they’d find their groove in downtempo anthem-making on Icon, this sadly makes the guitar chugging of Pity The Sadness and the galloping drums of Mortals Watch The Day one-offs. On the other hand, that scarcity is what makes this album especially essential.
2. Gothic (1991)
After Lost Paradise introduced Paradise Lost’s characteristics, this follow-up focussed more clearly on them to define the parameters of the death-doom subgenre. The crawling pace, string sections, sullen lead guitar lines and clashes of growls with operatic singing all combined to create an album that mimicked the dread and grandeur of the apocalypse itself. To this day, only a select few bands in this niche have ever touched the magnificence of Gothic.
1. Draconian Times (1995)
You could convincingly argue that any entry in this list’s top 10 is the best Paradise Lost album. However, what earns Draconian Times the number one spot here is that every second of it is ceaselessly, persistently memorable. Enchantment, Hallowed Land, The Last Time and Forever Failure by themselves could open a greatest hits compilation, each one perfectly meshing Sisters Of Mercy with Metallica to match oomph, nihilism and catchiness. For 12 songs and 49 minutes, that formula’s impact never wanes. This remains Paradise Lost’s highest-charting album as a result, and its legacy’s so strong that the band still occasionally perform the whole thing in full.