"Shades of God" is the 3rd full-length studio album by UK doom metal act Paradise Lost. The album was released through Music For Nations in July 1992. Their first two albums were released through Peaceville Records, so a label change has taken place. But other changes had happened too and in many ways "Shades of God" signals the start of a new era for Paradise Lost (or maybe more correctly the start of the transition to a new era). Not in the lineup though, as the lineup, who recorded the first two albums, is still intact.
It´s more in the sound and style of the actual music that you´ll hear the difference from the earlier more doom/death metal oriented albums. While he would pursue an even more clean type of singing on subsequent releases, Nick Holmes already began the vocal transition on "Shades of God", which features a semi-growling delivery and a few more goth type clean vocals. The overall music style on the album is still doom/death metal though. There is a strong emphasis on lead guitars and lead guitar themes throughout the album, and "Shades of God" is probably the Paradise Lost album which features most guitar leads and guitar solos. It´s still heavy, doomy, and occasionally brutal, but always melodic and drenched in an omnipresent melancholic atmosphere.
The complexity of the song structures is another change that´s quite prominent compared to the earlier releases, and at times tracks like "Crying for Eternity", "No Forgiveness", "Your Hand in Mine" and especially the 9:14 minutes long "Daylight Torn" even touch progressive territories because of it. Some tracks are a bit more straight forward like "Mortals Watch the Day" and "Pity the Sadness", but even those are quite intriguingly structured. The most accessible track on the album is the closing track "As I Die". It was not included on the vinyl version of the album, which is a bit odd, as it went on to become an underground hit for the band, but the album is over 50 minutes long even without "As I Die", and long running times seriously decrease the audio quality of vinyls, so that might be the reason for leaving out "As I Die" on the original vinyl version.
The musicianship are generally on a decent level, with especially the vocals by Nick Holmes (and his lyrics) and the lead guitars by main composer Gregor Mackintosh, as some of the highlights and strengths of the band´s sound, while drummer Matthew Archer again drags the collective performance down. His drumming style is clumsy and too simple for its own good. Once he plays a fill on a track, you can expect to hear the exact same fill being played whenever a fill is called for again on that track. No variation and a very stiff and uncomfortable playing style. It´s not a major issue because of the generaly low pace of the music, but I can´t help think what a more refined and skilled drummer could have added to the music.
"Shades of God" features a rather distinct sounding production. The guitar- and bass tone and the drum sound aren´t necessarily that well sounding with the ears of today, but it was not considered an issue in 1992, where the album was generally regarded as a well produced release. Personally I think the sound suits the music perfectly and when those two features go hand in hand in perfect harmony, I´m not gonna complain about minor technical sound issues. It´s probably an aquired taste anyway.
Overall "Shades of God" is another quality release by Paradise Lost and it shows great development of the band´s sound. So at this point in the band´s career, all three of their studio albums featured a very different sound, and it was obvious at this point, that Paradise Lost were still searching for their own unique sound. Thankfully they produced some really great albums in the process including "Shades of God". A 4 star (80%) rating is deserved.