Gold Against the Soul received mixed reviews from critics.Allmusic, awarding the record three and a half stars out of five, described it as a "flawed but intriguing second album", while Kerrang! and Melody Maker listed the record at #8 and #25 in Albums Of The Year 1993 respectively. Stuart Bailie, writing for the NME, was uncertain however, calling the album "confusing" and "too much Slash and not enough burn" but did compliment its musicality, saying "the drums and guitars rumble higher in the mix, and massive, harmonising riffs are everywhere".Q Magazine's Peter Kane was more critical, describing Gold Against the Soul "superficially competent, of course, but scratch below the surface and you'll find few signs of life, just a vaguely expressed, bemused and bored dissatisfaction".
The band themselves have described the record as their least favourite album and the most unfocused period of their career. The band's vocalist and guitarist James Dean Bradfield has said, "All we wanted to do was go under the corporate wing. We thought we could ignore it but you do get affected."
Gold Against the Soul remains a controversial record among critics. Both the NME and Q have revised their opinions in some later articles, with the former's Paul Stokes opining that its short, "snappy, driven and focused" length contrasts with other albums' "indulgently lengthy tracklistings", and suggesting that "with its big, radio-friendly Dave Eringa production, it's easy to see why Gold Against The Soul caused such a stir compared to the wild, almost feral rock of Generation Terrorists that preceded it a year earlier. However, with the band's more beefed up, arena-friendly sound emerging in subsequent years, this album is no longer so at odds with the general Manics aesthetic." The latter publication, in a retrospective review of The Holy Bible, looked back on Gold Against the Soul as "an underrated pop-metal effort that's armed with a handful of bona-fide big tunes" and cited "La Tristesse Durera (Scream to a Sigh)" as its highlight.
In a negative commentary, meanwhile, Joe Tangari of Pitchfork lambasted Gold Against The Soul as a "labored, sophomore-slumping hard rock turd that had them looking washed up early," concluding that "there was really no preparation for the intensity, perversion, and genuine darkness of The Holy Bible", which would follow in 1994.