Paradise Lost have never been a band to follow trends or do the expected, which is why they are celebrating their 25th anniversary by not releasing a “Best Of” compilation – although one that covered their whole career would be most welcome – but instead opting to put together some of the rare bonus tracks from their last three albums recorded for Century Media along with a few new goodies.
Although there are those that say bonus tracks are usually songs not good enough to make it to the final album, there is something of a consistency to the quality of the songs on this album in that they’re actually all pretty good. If truth be told, there’s nothing here that’s going to push ‘Say Just Words’ or ‘As I Die’ out of their live setlist and it’s easy to see in retrospect why some of these tracks didn’t quite fit in with the bulk of album material that they were recorded with, but when the band are in furious mode like on ‘The Last Fallen Saviour’ or wowing with their brilliant cover of Spear of Destiny’s ‘Never Take Me Alive’ (both from last year’s “Tragic Idol” sessions) it’s difficult to equate this album with being a collection of cast offs.
Listening back, you can hear that Paradise Lost have put some of their more experimental ideas into their bonus material, like on the relatively lightweight but catchy ‘Back on Disaster’ (from the Japanese edition of “Faith Divides Us – Death Unites Us”) where singer Nick Holmes sticks to his cleaner vocals over some almost gothic-pop riffing. The heavier ‘Sons of Perdition’ (from the Japanese edition of “In Requiem”) harks back to the band’s “Icon” album in sound but with a more polished guitar tone while the instrumental ‘Godless’ (from the “In Requiem” 7” box set) has a semi-industrial pulse at the centre of it whilst the band riff and build a suitably haunting atmosphere around it.
Of the new songs, ‘Loneliness Remains’ is a slow and grinding slab of doom which sees Nick Holmes perfecting his gothic croon over some Black Sabbath-y guitar riffs and Greg Mackintosh’s winding solo’s. It’s a solid Paradise Lost song but nothing remarkable. What is probably of more interest are their re-recordings of ‘Our Saviour’ (originally from their debut “Lost Paradise” album) and the classic ‘Gothic’ (originally from 1991’s pioneering “Gothic” album). Despite both tracks not sounding desperately different from their original versions it is cool to hear them with a beefed-up production and with current drummer Adrian Erlandsson stamping his authority over the occasionally awkward rhythms and time changes. Nick Holmes also reverts back to his full-on death growls, which makes you wish he’d do it more often on their newer material.
“Tragic Illusion 25 (The Rarities)” isn’t really likely to appeal to anybody who isn’t already a fan of the band but that isn’t really the point. What it does do is celebrate Paradise Lost’s enduring influence over the gothic metal scene and give us a clue as to what makes up their musical backbone. Not every song is a winner – their cover of Everything But the Girl’s ‘Missing’ sticking out like a sore thumb and being almost as painful to listen to as the original – but are probably just as essential as the band’s ‘greatest hits’ in giving an overall impression as to what this important and consistently excellent band are all about.