Even though we’re living on opposite sides of the country, I would say that Justin Bruce and I (Chris Aitkens) have fairly similar tastes in music. This kind of defeats the purpose of having a Bi-Polar Review, where two critics clash in their opinions of an assigned album. In this case, we both seem to agree that while Paradise’s third and self-titled album sounds great, we have absolutely no interest in what they’re selling. We’d rather go to a basement show than to an arena concert. We’d rather wear sweatpants than try to squeeze into a pair of tight black leather pants.
Paradise are a Montreal hard rock band here with their latest self-titled LP. The third release in the band’s catalogue, Paradise is comprised of what I can only describe as stepdad metal; think a stoner metal version of HELLYEAH or a less groovy version of The Sword. Whatever way you want to look at it, Paradise are big proponents of big riffs, big drums, and big choruses. Paradise is a great sounding album made up of, what I feel are, boring songs.
The album starts off on a heavy note with the song “Straight from Hell.” The riffs almost have a Jerry Cantrell-esque tone to them and the raspy vocal performance, albeit a little on the butt rock side of things, deserves some recognition. Some other highlights on Paradise include the nu-metal-meets-pub-rock song “Barn Burner,” or the closing tune “Free in Exile.” I know that first one sounds like it should be an insult, but the opening riff just does it for me. The biggest compliment I can give Paradise is that they are great at what they do. Each instrumental is incredibly well performed and the band’s vocalist Blacky, although not breaking any new ground, is diverse enough to fit Paradise’s occasional shift towards softer rock side.
Where Paradise lose me is with the sheer amount of cheese packed into these ten songs. The grimy sounding “Who Do You Wanna Be” sounds like a Velvet Revolver d-side, complete with colour-by-number lyrics and a repetitive song structure that makes this three-and-a-half minute tune feel like an eternity. “Never Cry Again” doesn’t fair much better. Couple that same pedestrian song structure from earlier songs in the album with lines like “fighting the fear instead of fighting the tears,” and I’m going to need help unrolling my eyes from the back of my head.
If Paradise came on the radio, I probably wouldn’t change the station. But there’s a pretty slim chance I’m listening to this record again on my own accord.
As someone who prides himself on knowing the ins and outs of the Montreal punk and metal scene, I was surprised I hadn’t heard of Paradise before. But after listening to this album, now I know why they never made it on my radar. I say it’s pretty close to style of ‘cock rock,’ though Justin would prefer the term ‘butt rock.’ If we were to meet in the middle, what would that be? ‘Taint rock?’
Joking aside, I agree with Justin saying this album sounds great. The production is top-notch, the instruments sound big and in-your-face. The guitar tone is nice n’ heavy, and every opportunity is taken to squeeze in a ripping solo. Blacky’s vocals are probably the best part of the package; his voice has the right amount of rasp for the genre, remaining consistent even during the glam melodies, without going into high squeeze-your-nuts operatic territory. On the second track “Hitting On All Sixes,” Blacky introduces a lower register vocal style, sounding a lot like Axl Rose’s low-range.
The lyrics deal in escapism and what I like to call ‘Evil Lite,’ singing about “coming straight from hell” or that they “got no soul to sell.” It gives off a bod boy image—outlaws riding big bikes across the desert— but stops short of devil worship, as to not ward off any corporate rock suits. The words don’t really have much meaning beyond sounding cool and tough. I found myself getting exhausted mid-way through the album, because it felt like I was listening to the same four-minute song on repeat. Pushing myself to listen to five more tracks—especially with my short attention span—felt like a chore.
I feel like Paradise are a few decades late. Back in the day, their sound could have filled up a stadium, complete with pyrotechnics, girls sitting on their boyfriends’ shoulders to flash the band, with mountains of cocaine waiting backstage. But today, I feel they would only be able to pack a pub on a Thursday with family and friends. It’s not that I’m not nostalgic for the music of a past era, just not this particular brand of rock n’ roll. Once again, I’m with Justin: would I voluntarily listen to this album a second time? Nah, I’m good.
Written by Justin Bruce and Chris Aitkens
*edited by Danielle Kenedy