THROUGH A GLASS DARKLY: An interview with Paradise Lost's Greg Mackintosh
Amidst the relentless bustle of normal human life, it’s often difficult to find space to reflect. However, with a global pandemic running rampant throughout the world and social distancing proving a necessary evil, pretty much all of us have holed up wherever we call home and begun to inhabit the inner world of our own minds. Bands that lean towards the introspective side of the metal spectrum can offer a kind of wistful solace in these strange and unsettling times, and the absorbing, pensive strains of leading Gothic doom outfit Paradise Lost are ideally suited to this deepening contemplation. Dark Matter were lucky enough to catch up with accomplished lead guitarist Greg Mackintosh to discuss their latest, highly anticipated release, the more thoughtful aspects of their music and how they are, resolutely, not like other bands.
The bleakly beguiling new album 'Obsidian', described by the group as ‘dark, reflective and black’ will no doubt prove perfect for whiling away those endless hours of quarantine while ruminating on the current crisis, the direction of our lives, and within the context of that, the nature of humanity itself. Greg explained the decision not to delay release as a valiant attempt to save everyone’s sanity. ‘Nuclear Blast did ask us if we wanted to put the album back to the end of the year but we figured its best to have it out at a time like this when people have nothing to do. I mean, why not? It might impact sales but… everyone needs heat and food and light and a roof over their head but art is the thing that separates us from the animals isn’t it, so I guess you need that to keep a sane head around these times. So why not bring it out now?’ Fans are no doubt thrilled Greg and co made this decision, despite the potential financial loss and missed opportunities for promotion. However, although plans for an immediate tour have been disrupted, there is hope on the horizon that it will go ahead eventually. ‘With the album coming out May 15th, we were due to do a release show on the same date but that’s been cancelled, pushed back to September, and festivals are out, so we’re talking end of this year, beginning of next year for a full tour.’
For these sombre Yorkshire doom merchants, the exploration of misery, gloom and heartache is a default mode – their exquisite, perfectly balanced soundscapes unfolding in rich, velvety layers of mournful melody. Judging by early accounts, much of the new album is about losing control, and life not turning out quite the way you’d wanted it to - a feeling that has become all too familiar lately. But while ’Obsidian’ was put together before Covid 19 unleashed hell, would it have been different had it been composed during the pandemic? ‘This all happened afterwards.’ Greg says. ‘But I think it’s a theme that runs through humanity anyway. Regret, self-doubt and reminiscing and all this kind of stuff and wondering if things could have been different. Personally I see it as a sort of wasted emotion. Hindsight is kind of pointless.’ For Greg, the album is much more on the level of personal reflection than a rumination on wider events outside of our control. ‘Whatever you’ve done has led you to the path you’re on now. So if you change one simple little thing it could be worse, it could be better. But it’s a very human trait, and it’s something people always have, and it’s even more kind of endemic because of what’s going on right now because people are more thoughtful about things at the moment. I’ve also been asked in a couple of interviews if I think its prophetic that this album is about all this stuff and this is going on and I said not really because we’ve been writing about very similar stuff for 30 years. If you do that, it’s bound to come true at some point in time.’ Our torment is more self-inflicted than anything else, and this comes across in the aching melancholia of Paradise Lost’s music and its attempt to probe how we torture ourselves and provide a kind of catharsis for those negative feelings.
‘I think in bygone eras people would have turned to religion in things like that,’ Greg explains, ‘but because we’re atheists it comes from a more human perspective of self-doubt and self-worth and all the rest of it. Not needing a crutch, just questioning those things. No answers either, just questioning why this goes on and what the result could be.’ Of course, its very much down to the reaction of the individual too. ‘I think it depends on whether you like this type of music or not. I like dark, sad music and that lifts my spirits. If I had to listen to high energy dance all day that would make me miserable.’ Obsidian certainly feels more meditative and gentler in tone than what’s been done before. ‘Lyrically that reflects.’ Greg muses. ‘On the last record (Medusa), the lyrics were a lot more nihilistic. And on this they’re far more inward looking, introspective, looking back on your life. When we came to do this one we wanted to do something a little bit more thoughtful with layers to it. Something different, something more to get your teeth into, something more to think about, and more textures on there. Compared to the last couple of records we’ve done, it’s far more varied, far more eclectic, I’d say. Albums are like snapshots – it just depends what you like at the time. I think there’s some new elements on there, I’m not even sure where they came from musically, it was just through messing around and it just came together. It’s good after all these years that you can still do something that can take you by surprise.’