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Paradise Lost: Draconian Times Album Of The Week Club review

Draconian Times was Paradise Lost’s own Black album: a slab of contemporary metal that met the mainstream on its own terms

Paradise Lost: Draconian Times
(Image: © Nuclear Blast)
Paradise Lost: Draconian Times

(Image credit: Nuclear Blast)

Enchantment
Hallowed Land
The Last Time
Forever Failure
Once Solemn
Shadowkings
Elusive Cure
Yearn for Change
Shades of God
Hands of Reason
I See Your Face
Jaded

On Draconian Times Paradise Lost streamlined their sound without losing their identity, just as Metallica had done half a decade earlier. 

Enchantment and The Last Time stripped away the murk to reveal a sparkling melodic heart, Elusive Care gave full flight to the old school goth leanings that had always been lurking in the shadows, while Once Solemn veered towards punk territory in its rampant forward motion. 

For a moment, it looked like Draconian Times was going to elevate Paradise Lost in metal’s superstar bracket. Ultimately it didn’t, but more than two decades on it remains one of the 90s' most influential albums.

“It was a case of right album, right time, right place,” says singer Nick Holmes. “Sure, it’s a very good record, but I’m still surprised that it has become so influential. I listen back now and, while I am proud of what we did, I have to say it’s not as good as so many others believe it to be."

The impact of Draconian Times even spread to America, where some thought Paradise Lost were about to break very big indeed.

“I remember Nick and I having a meeting with one of the most powerful people in the music business out there,” recalls guitarist Greg Mackintosh. “The two of us sat in his office, and just listened to him going on and on about how he was gonna make us a huge name in the States. 

"We walked out of there, looked at each other, and in our dour Yorkshire way thought, ‘Nah! That’s never gonna happen’. For once, we were absolutely right to be pessimistic."

Every week, Album of the Week Club listens to and discusses the album in question, votes on how good it is, and publishes our findings, with the aim of giving people reliable reviews and the wider rock community the chance to contribute. 

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Other albums released in June 1995

  • Further Down The Spiral - Nine Inch Nails
  • Masquerade in Blood - Sodom
  • Days Like This - Van Morrison
  • Panzerfaust - Darkthrone
  • Still Not Black Enough - W.A.S.P.
  • Let Your Dim Light Shine - Soul Asylum
  • Forbidden - Black Sabbath
  • Infernal Love - Therapy?
  • Red Medicine - Fugazi
  • About Time - Pennywise
  • Jagged Little Pill - Alanis Morissette
  • Menace to Sobriety - Ugly Kid Joe
  • Stanley Road - Paul Weller
  • Replenish - Reef
  • I Am an Elastic Firecracker - Tripping Daisy
  • Afraid of Sunlight - Marillion
  • Sleater-Kinney - Sleater-Kinney
  • Gov't Mule - Gov't Mule
  • A Live One - Phish Live
  • Mirror Ball - Neil Young
  • These Days - Bon Jovi
  • Mirror Mirror - 10cc

What they said...

"Listening to this makes me feel bad for people holed up in their compact SUVs and cookie-cutter houses, people who’ve never bothered to explore music beyond The Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin. It’s an album that stands alone in both sound and inspiration, a once-in-a-career masterwork that bleeds nostalgia and yet still sounds fresh 20 years later." (Angry Metal Guy)

"A blueprint for many bands in the style to follow, this is a commendable effort from one of the innovators of this particular style of metal, and although the band will inevitably sound bland at some point, remember that this is mood music and not meant to be whored 24/7. As long as you don't play this album too much, you'll realise that this is pretty much the best the style has to give." (Sputnik Music)

"On Draconian Times, Paradise Lost injected a huge dose of the big sound that Metallica brought into the world with their "black" album, creating a goth metal disc that had anthemic songs that should have been huge hits in the era of Enter Sandman and Wherever I May Roam. It wasn't to be, though, and the lads took their infamous sharp left turn from here into the realm of Depeche Mode-influenced 'electro depresso pop.'" (Exclaim!)

What you said...

Roland Bearne
Paradise Lost are one of those bands who have "always been around", I've seen them live and they have an album which I love (One Second) but somehow they have never quite grabbed me by the scruff. This album has always "been around somewhere", on a shelf or an iPod or whatever but somehow even after years of dipping in, it never really opened up. 

Having said that, a very enjoyable listen this week. Couldn't yet do a detailed track-by-track, but overall I like! I love the dexterity and innate sincerity in Nick Holmes' delivery. I love the light and shade. I get how it might be described as the UK's Black Album but, that's sound-bite journalism in my humble. Yes, Holmes has a Hetfieldian growl in his arsenal, but he's a much better voice artist (I use the term advisedly) than JH. 

I think this may have been ahead of its time, elements of "Nu" before Nu knew it was Nu ...as 'twere! There is also, and I really can't quite put my finger on it, something quintessentially British about this release, which sets it and them apart from US metal of even similar ilk. I think there is a sort of unselfconscious earnestness in the work. Not "trying" to achieve something but ploughing their own furrow with complete honesty (you try telling a bunch of Yorkshire lads how you think they should sound!). Late in the day, but I'm going to keep this on rotation and I have high hopes it will evolve into a late-to-the-party gem.

Chris Downie
Few bands can claim to be genuine game changers who spawned an entire sub-genre. Fewer still can legitimately claim to be ahead of their countless successors decades later. Yet Yorkshire's Paradise Lost have done just that, confounding expectations along the way whilst always remaining true to themselves, laying waste to media preconceptions and fan expectations as ruthlessly as their many imitators.

It is fitting that, on its 25th anniversary, their legendary Draconian Times album has been met with reappraisals fuelled by misty-eyed nostalgia, as well as discovery by fans too young to have witnessed its monumental 1995 release, when accolades such as "the new Metallica" were being routinely thrown at them.

To fully appreciate this album and the context surrounding it's universal acclaim, rather than being seen as "the right album at the right time" as has been so often said, it should instead be viewed in the context of it's four predecessors, all of which were remarkable evolutionary steps that saw the band progressively develop at an exciting pace, culminating in DT's 1993 predecessor Icon. Draconian Times is the slightly more polished arena-ready version of Icon, in the same way Ride The Lighting and Master of Puppets go hand in hand, the latter following the template set down by the previous one.

From the grandiose, epic opener Enchantment to the sombre tone of closer Jaded, there is not a weak track to be found among its dozen compositions, all benefitting from a stellar production and the enthusiastic entry of new drummer Lee Morris. If there is only one drawback (and it is a very minor one) it is the top-heavy running order, where the first four tracks are arguably the strongest, resulting in an early peak. 

That said, it is an album which, rather than becoming a millstone around their necks, spurred the band on to further experimentation (for better or worse) and a 30+ year career which remains as compelling as ever to this day, not least in stunning new album Obsidian.

While some may argue they have made better, more rounded albums since (its industrial-infused follow-up One Second and the 7-string heaviness of late career flourish Faith Divides Us... being two such examples) Draconian Times stands alone as the album where they realised their commercial potential and make an indelible mark on the metal scene at large. 10/10.

Iain Macaulay
To the uninitiated, this is a fantastic album. Metal and Goth melded together, what’s not to like in my opinion! Paradise Lost are not as cheesy or teenage as Cradle Of Filth or as poppy as Metallica. This album is no quick fix. You will need to invest some time into these tracks, and to be fair, the band themselves. Every listen will bring something new to the table. This is cult listening at its finest from one of the longest running cult bands in Britain. Give their other material a chance to. There is a lot of it, a lot to get from it and it is all different.

Brian Anderson
I found it to be an unnecessary and lifeless reworking of NWOBHM with a James Hetfield impersonator on vocals.

Elliot Brown
I had this album built up by blokes with beards and a love of real ale as a seminal album that would change my life. And upon listening I can say I've never been more frustrated for not being able to like something, I couldn't get over the Hetfield-lite vocals and how slow and plodding it was in places, all the songs just feel bloated and could have done with speeding up or cutting down. 

I don't know if it's a case of hearing the bands that came after before hearing the original but it did nothing for me. I really really wanted to like it but it just left me cold. 3/10 for me.

Plamen Agov
Another band that have never been on my music players. I saw them live headlining Kavarna Rock Fest 2011. Preparing for that gig, I was not impressed by their stuff.

Now, listening to Draconian Times, I still can't fully understand their popularity. The opening couple of tracks are not bad and I hear an interesting guitar solo in the last song, but anyway I couldn't find any memorable tunes and probably I won't be back to this band.

Bill Griffin
I've said before that I like singing, not growling and Nick is right on the edge for me. If the music wasn't so damn good, he would probably be over the edge but the music is damn good. I find the comparisons to Metallica a little puzzling though as don't hear it at all. I do hear some very subtle Type O Negative creeping in though and that probably helps Nick's case as well.

Alex Hayes
Oh, how the Alex of 1995 would have loved listening to this album for the very first time. The Alex of 2020 quite enjoyed it too, but there's a personal sense of misplaced timing here that I can't seem to shake off.

As the early 1990s unfolded, so did my reverence for extreme metal. It was an easy leap for me to take from the classic thrash metal days of the mid to late 80s into even more brutal music as we swapped one decade for another and I entered my late teenage years. From the Big 4 and Testament through to groups like Kreator and Sepultura and then, by around 1993, full on into the vibrant Death Metal scene of the time. 

Groups like Death, Morbid Angel and Pestilence and albums like Human, Wolverine Blues and Cause Of Death became cherished personal favourites (Dreams Of The Carrion Kind by Disincarnate anyone?). For reasons that I can't pinpoint, Paradise Lost were not amongst those names though. Meaning that I'm only now hearing this album for the first time.

I'm quite impressed, and will be awarding the album a good score, but I know for a fact that I'd have been much more enamoured with it if I'd first come across it 25 years ago. My priorities have shifted somewhat since then and those 90s extreme metal days have become a pleasantly nostalgic memory to me as opposed to being something character defining. Judging from other comments made here, this admittedly diverse and ambitious record has had a bigger impact on other members of the group. Good stuff but the timing is all off for me.

Uli Hassinger
This album is outstanding. I keeps the tension up over the whole distance. There are songs with a gothic touch, some doom stuff and straight forward metal. Never gets boring. It's hard to pick some songs out because the songwriting is strong throughout. My favourites are the opener Enchantment and I See Your Face. I also think the cover design is brilliant. The artwork is some of the best in music history.

Paul Hutchings
An absolutely gorgeous album. You can lose yourself in it for the best part of an hour, or pick a couple of tracks at a time. Beautifully crafted, dark as hell and a perfect blend of styles. Still sounds stunning and it's astonishing to think it hits 25 in a few weeks. Not all their works are magical but they follow their own path, and Obsidian, this year's album is incredible.

Marco LG
I discovered Paradise Lost with Icon, a couple of years prior, and that album remains among my absolute favourites of all time. When Draconian Times came out I was well into the heaviest music of the time, including the Norwegian and Swedish kind. To my ears, this was a generic step towards a softer sound, and I wasn’t impressed. What happened next was utterly baffling and resulted in me ignoring every subsequent release until Medusa came out in 2017.

Listening to Draconian Times today hasn’t changed my mind. The best moments remain rather enjoyable, but too often the music slips in territories I really despise. The crown of the most cringeworthy track goes to Once Solemn, a mishmash of gothic metal and Nirvana-style grunge that makes me wanna reach for the skip button every time.

Ultimately this is probably the album by Paradise Lost that I enjoy the least, in time I re-evaluated even the “Depeche Lost” years, but Draconian Times for me remains a transitional effort that has not aged well. 5 out 10 from me.

Mike Knoop
Draconian Times is a hard album to warm up to if coming into it (and the band) cold. Their influence on modern metal is immediately obvious, however, because Draconian Times sounds like it could be released today. Given that this album was recommended by fellow members that I'm usually in sync with music-wise, I did a lot more "homework" than usual and dove deep into Paradise Lost and the whole death/doom/goth genre at large.

In my reading, Draconian Times was oft compared to Metallica's "black" album, and I can hear that, especially in a lot of Nick Holmes' vocal delivery. It's hard, however, to hear how this album was intended to be their commercial breakthrough. It can be so dark and funereal that it makes most of industrial and nu metal, by comparison, sound like little kids who need a spank and a nap.

Repeated listens are rewarded with greater clarity and the ability to hear colours beyond grey and appreciate the dynamics at work. Looking up the lyrics helped too.

There's a dark beauty to the opening track Enchantment that sets the tone for the album. Throughout the record, new drummer Lee Morris pounds his way clear of the relentless undertow and Andrew Holdsworth's pretty keyboard bits and Aaron Aedy's pretty acoustic bits offer graceful contrasts to the pervasive heavy rumble and keep the songs from suffocating under their own weight. Gregor Mackintosh doesn't generally play overly flashy which helps his solos like on The Last Time, Hands Of Reason, Jaded, or Shades of God stand out.

I like Holmes best when his singing changes within the same song. In Hallowed Land, he changes fluidly between Hetfield growls and actually melodic singing then dropping way low to devastatingly deliver the line, "Who are the prayers for?" He uses similar - I'm going to use the word again - dynamics on Yearn For A Change, Hands of Reason, and Elusive Cure. The thrashing Once Solemn and streamlined metal of I See Your Face also work as good contrasts with the rest of the album.

Listening to and reading up on their massive back catalog, it feels like Draconian Times got the short shrift a bit. No choral or female vocals, no orchestral bits; just six guys grinding out some very heavy, very somber metal. But sometimes that's all you need.

Andrew Bramah
Every band wants to make their own statement and this was it. Brilliant production and a brutal melodic collection of tracks. Never a band to stand still they never repeated this again. A timeless classic.

Mike Norris
A band with moments of brilliance throughout their career, but Draconian Times was “the one”. 

Neil Immerz
This album is beautiful, from start to finish an absolute masterpiece of musical perfection! Every track is strong and nowhere does it lag or get boring.

Adam McCann
Stone cold classic. One of the best of the 90's. Beautifully crafted. All I need is a simple reminder...

Peter Howe
Masterpiece perfect from opening keys of enchantment to closing bars of jaded

Terje Rognli
Brilliant album. This and PJ Harvey's To Bring You My Love were my soundtrack to the nineties. Both albums kind of introvert and dark. This album alone is the reason why a 'best of' album by Paradise Lost is futile: all tracks on this album deserves a place.

John Davidson
This is one of those albums that I loved at the time, played to death and left alone for a long time. Other than the odd song here and there I hadn't really properly sat down and listened to PL for about 15 years, so it was a genuine and pleasant surprise to hear them live recently, discover they were as brilliantly miserable as ever and re-engage with their frankly fantastic back catalogue. (As a Scot, I have a lot of affinity and affection for the music of depressive Yorkshiremen. You can practically feel the rain battering through the music).

Hardly an overnight success, Paradise Lost had been clawing their way up through the ranks for seven years before they produced Draconian Times (their fifth album).

That said, they were never a band to rest on their laurels and Draconian Times builds on the more accessible vocals introduced on Shades of God (album three) and explored more fully on Icon (album four) .

None the less Draconian Times was their most commercial album to date and helped propel them onto the main stage of UK metal.

It was certainly my first introduction to the band, and having spent a few years mourning the passing of goth maestros Fields of the Nephilim I was delighted (?) to discover a band that combined the monochrome sonic palate of goth with the crunching guitars of heavy metal.

Gregor Mackintosh’s lead guitar work, particularly on standouts like Hallowed Land and Shadow Kings is up there with the best of them and the crunching rhythm guitars and bass (from Aaron and Steve) provide the perfect platform. In terms of song structures, it’s often Greg’s heavy wah-wah guitar sounds that carry the songs’ melody.

The drumming from then ‘new boy’ Lee Morris is a key part of the sound bringing percussive punch but with plenty of fills and frills to keep things interesting in the background.

Nick Holmes vocals are perhaps where some listeners will have difficulty – he delivers the moribund lyrics with a throaty bellow rather than a heavy rock scream or a death metal growl, but for me it perfectly fits the atmosphere of the album and indeed is a key part of the ongoing signature of the band.

Although I have mentioned a couple of standouts on the album there is not a weak track, not a hint of filler and it is an unusually consistent collection of songs.

That consistency is both the strength and weakness of the album - in that it is intense and immersive but it steadfastly holds to its one mood.

Consequently, as an album exploring loss, regret and confusion it is almost perfect. But you do have to be in the right frame of mind to enjoy the melancholy rather than being dragged down and turned off by the seemingly relentless crunch rather than focussing on the underlying melodic heart of the songs and incredible textures that the band have stitched together.

The group ’s progression continued as they introduced more synths in subsequent album One Second and, rather like Rush a decade before, continued to explore that aspect even further on Host and Believe In Nothing before returning to more guitar-oriented work with Symbol Of Life in 2003. Pradise Lost are still going strong and their recent album Obsidian is well worth investigating.

A goth metal masterpiece 9/10

Jon Marks
Stunning album - partially recorded about a mile from my house at Great Linford Manor. Looking back to when the band started writing it, they were suddenly left with the job of finding a new drummer 6-8 weeks before recording started and quickly found the ideal man in Marshall Law's Lee Morris who's style complimented PL 100% so it was win-win and in Lee they also got a pretty fine backing vocalist to help Holmes out live. 

It's hard to fault a track on this album - it starts and ends strongly - each song has its own identity and the b-sides that accompanied both singles lifted from the album are also stonking tracks too - showing a different side to the band as well as an awesome cover of the Sisters Of Mercy Walk Away. I saw the band perform this album in its entirety three times back in 2011 and whether it be 1995, 2011 or 2020 it hasn't aged and sounds timeless! 

Is it the best of the bands career? That's subjective from fan to fan, but it's right up there, so by consistency of track-to-track I would say yes!

Alexander Taylor
Incredible album, and whilst never repeated Paradise Lost still make superb albums. This band should be up there with the Sabs in terms of respect.

Pete Runcieman
This is the album that should have made Paradise Lost huge on the world scene. It's not hyperbole to say it really is that good. From the opening of Enchantment to the closing of Jaded there are no weak tracks. I'll never understand why they alienated a huge part of the following they'd built up with this album on the electronica influenced One Second. 10/10.

Chris Palmer
Absolute masterpiece in every sense of the word! This was the album that introduced me to the band, and I bought the double-disc box edition just because I liked the look of the artwork! I was blown away the second I pressed play, and have been following the band ever since.

Final Score: 7.367⁄10 (96 votes cast, with a total score of 707)

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