Artist: Paradise Lost
Album: Believe in Nothing (Remixed & Remastered)
Label: Nuclear Blast
Paradise Lost continue their series of album reissues from their experimental Gothic synth rock era, as last year’s 2-disc version of One Second (1997) and this year’s Host (1999) remaster have now been followed by a full remix (with new cover art) of the oft-maligned Believe in Nothing (2001), which even the band members themselves were never fully happy with. Is the second time the charm?
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“Can you polish a turd?” goes the lifelong question. According to the MythBusters, it is possible, but I’ve found that in the field of music, the affirmative answer seldom rings true. Now, calling Believe in Nothing a piece of junk is a little too harsh, but it’s undoubtedly one of Paradise Lost’s least flattering moments. After the electronic experimentation of Host, the band wanted to make a more guitar-driven and rocking album, but the interference of their label, EMI, into the creative process and the personal issues the band members were going through at the time resulted in a slightly halfhearted effort with not that many classics. My main problem has always been the songwriting, which feels rather unfocused and lethargic compared to the masterful Host, and not so much the production. Nevertheless, I wanted to keep an open mind and see if the group’s current in-house producer, Jaime Gomez Arellano, had breathed new life into the mostly forgettable record.
Unfortunately the opening track “I Am Nothing”, one of the few truly great songs on the album with a chorus to die for, already manages to start off the album on the wrong foot in terms of mixing: the guitars sound trebly and thin compared to the original, and the drums lack punch. However, maybe it’s just my ears getting used to the sound after the initial shock, but on the following track, the album’s most enduring live song “Mouth”, the mix doesn’t bother me. “Something Real” and “Sell It to the World” actually sound great, and the heavier sound is more in line with the albums that came out after it – the latter even includes a Gothic choir in the intro that wasn’t there before. On the fifth standout track, the semi-doomy closer “World Pretending”, however, the mix is again a bit of a letdown, because Nick Holmes’s vocals have been pushed so far back that it feels like they’re no longer leading the song like they should.
“Illumination” and the strings-driven “Divided” are mid-tier songs, as they’re alright, but I barely ever feel the need to revisit them. Luckily the latter track sounds a little more energetic now, thanks to the higher vocal harmony in the chorus being more upfront. “Look at Me Now” has promising verses, but the chorus is a huge anticlimax, and in the new mix the clean guitars in the verses have been turned up so loud that the contrast when the distorted guitars kick in doesn’t feel as impactful. “Fader” has a short but annoying prechorus and a chorus that doesn’t really go anywhere, while “Never Again”, “Control”, (perhaps the line “We are determined to control” was a subtle dig at the label?) and “No Reason” form one of the most tedious 3-song runs in the PL discography, and the tweaking of the sound doesn’t manage to sway my opinion on any of them.
Believe in Nothing is a frustrating listen even in its remixed form: 4 of the songs sound better now, 3 sound worse, and the remaining ones – mainly the weak links – sound about as good as the originals. I suppose the intention was to make the record rawer in vein of the band’s latest couple of albums, but that only works for some of the material, because Believe in Nothing for the most part represents dark alternative rock, as opposed to the death/doom of The Plague Within (2015) and Medusa (2017), and the whole musical climate is different now than 17 years ago, so some of the mix choices feel misguided. I would only recommend the remix to diehard fans and completists, but as a nice little extra, the digipak reissue includes 2 B-sides (“Gone” and “Leave This Alone”) from the album sessions as bonus tracks. They’re both actually quite good and could’ve easily replaced some of the filler tracks on the final record. Anyway, despite the average songs dragging Believe in Nothing down and the lack of essentialness of this remix, revisiting the album made me realize that the ratio between the good and the not-so-good stuff is slightly more favorable than on Medusa, which I gave a 5, so 6 is a fair grade in this case.
Rating: 6/10, 3 stars
1. I Am Nothing
4. Look at Me Now
6. Something Real
8. Sell It to the World
9. Never Again
11. No Reason
12. World Pretending