BraveWords Interview: PARADISE LOST – Britain’s Got Talons

By Carl Begai

Back in 1997, UK doom / Goth pioneers Paradise Lost threw their fanbase the most brutal of curves with their One Second album. Two years earlier they had released Draconian Times, which went over a storm and was considered the best and most logical way to continue the band’s reign, which had been established and cemented with their Gothic (1991), Shades Of God (1992), and Icon (1993) records. One Second’s electronic enhanced direction threw some people for a loop while others embraced it, and it was a message – however unintentional at the time – that Paradise Lost will do what they want to their sound, critics and (some) fans be damned. The Goth elements remained at the core as they moved forward with some bold experiments, but it wasn’t until Tragic Idol (2012) and The Plague Within (2015) that the band truly seemed to be returning to the full-on doom and gloom that put them on the map. The unleashing of Medusa two years later signalled the band had come full circle, or so it seemed. Obsidian – their 16th album to date – sees Paradise Lost pulling new tricks out of their collective sleeve, twisting their “trademark” early doom / Goth sound into new forms, effectively ripping apart any expectations people may have had going into the record after feasting on Medusa.

“I’ve become very pragmatic over the years about people trying to nail down our classic period,” guitarist Gregor Mackintosh says of fans referencing Paradise Lost’s early albums as their best work. “I think it has more to do with the time period in which an album comes out. For example, I don’t think Draconian Times would have been as popular if it came out two years later or two years prior. It’s pure circumstance sometimes. You can have strong material and be completely passed over. I take everything with a pinch of salt, really.”

According to Mackintosh, Paradise Lost has indeed put albums out that they thought were strong, yet the media and fans were unimpressed for the most part.

“Lots and lots of times, yeah,” Mackintosh laughs. “We’ve completely missed the mark or the scene has missed us, whichever way you want to look at it. We’ve been kings of shooting ourselves in the foot in certain parts of our career, but that’s from somebody else’s perspective. From our perspective we did exactly what we wanted to do and we wouldn’t change it, but from a commercial point of view… absolutely; we’ve gone off on a tangent and everybody hated it (laughs).”

And yet Paradise Lost is still here and still capturing and keeping the fans’ attention. They must be doing something right.

“Possibly,” Mackintosh concedes. “I’ve seen recent stories on us saying we’re an underrated band, and at the same time other people are saying ‘Hey, are those guys still going?’ I don’t know what to believe about us so we just keep doing what we’re doing. For me, this is still fun to do. I get a lot of enjoyment out of Paradise Lost, and we get along better now than we ever have done. There are no egos involved, we all have a very similar sense of humour, so to be able to do this as our main thing… what’s not to like?”

It’s a gross understatement to say that Obsidian is different from Medusa. Both are distinctly Paradise Lost, but anyone expecting the darkened rage of Medusa is going to be surprised.

“That’s the disconcerting thing about this new record. Medusa did far better than I thought it would. The rest of the band were skeptical about doing a doom record, which is what Medusa was. That was my idea because I just wanted to do a fuzzed out doom record, and I asked them to just roll with it. It was probably the most successful Paradise Lost record of the last 15 years. It was definitely the most successful touring we’ve done in the last 15 years. It was received way better than I thought it would be, and that got me to thinking that maybe Obsidian is not the record that people want (laughs). There are a couple of tracks that have similar traits to the songs on Medusa, but overall it is more varied.”

Frontman Nick Holmes describes Obsidian’s opening track, “Darker Thoughts”, and one of Paradise Lost’s most eclectic songs ever. It certainly is not what one expects as an album opener from the band.

“I don’t know if it’s the most eclectic album we’ve ever done, but it’s definitely more varied than the last one,” says Mackintosh. “‘Darker Thoughts’ as the first song on the album, there is no other place that it could be for us. The song throws people into a false sense of insecurity or security depending on your viewpoint. It’s a tester, really. If you can handle that song you can handle the album.”

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