By Laura WiebeParadise Lost, as part of the original unholy trinity of UK gothic doom, have a great deal of history to live up to. The band's path forward from those illustrious origins hasn't always been obvious, but it's hard not to respect their tenacity. Nearly 25 years into their career, Paradise Lost demonstrate with Tragic Idol that 13 (as in albums) can be a particularly exquisite number. As much as Nick Holmes represents the easily recognizable face and voice of Paradise Lost, it's the guitar work, especially Greg Mackintosh's leads, that's at the core of the songs' siren irresistibility. Those leads interweave with, and against, Holmes's gruff vocals and the rest of the band's deep rhythmic support until, every so often, the frequencies tap into something primal. Guitarist, founding member and songwriter Greg Mackintosh took a break from family life and rehearsing (with his other metal band, Vallenfyre) to share some thoughts on where Paradise Lost sit with latest album Tragic Idol and how the band got there.
How does Tragic Idol build on what you were doing with Faith Divides Us — Death Unites Us? How would you explain the relationship between these two albums? Mackintosh: It's a much more straightforward record than the previous one and more melodic. The easiest way to explain would be a baking analogy. Faith Divides would be quite a bitter, dark cake with lots of layers and plenty of icing. Tragic Idol would be a simple, delicious, moist cake with no icing.
In past interviews, you have mentioned religious themes cropping up on Faith Divides Us despite the atheism of the title (and the band). What themes are predominant on Tragic Idol? While the topics on Tragic Idol aren't drastically different to the previous record, the outlook is. Whereas Faith can be quite detached and angry, Tragic is more personal and reflective. Loss and honesty feature quite heavily on this record.
"Honesty in Death" and the accompanying video seem particularly tragic. How much does the video clip tap into the song and the album's lyrical concerns? The video is quite a literal representation of the song's theme. It deals with the view that sometimes total honesty doesn't appear until you have lost, or are in danger of losing, those things that are closest to you.
Paradise Lost have often delved into the darker side of human emotions and human nature, sonically as well as lyrically. Would you say the band's interest in dark themes is primarily aesthetic, a form of catharsis or type of social criticism? It's a collection of all those things. Firstly, I have always loved music, literature and art dealing with the darker side of life. Secondly, I find the darker side of life more inspiring. Lastly, I think I am the kind of person that simply overanalyses things and that can lead to being overly emotional on certain things.
Clearly most bands that last for a significant amount of time evolve in some way, but how that evolution develops isn't always predictable. I'm interested in the underlying influences on, or logic to, Paradise Lost's changes in sound. Why the heavier direction with the most recent releases after going in what seemed like the opposite direction for several years? I see it as a simple growing process. When we started out, we were quite narrow-minded about music. As we grew older, we were open to more diverse influences and being a full time musician, it's easy to get bored with genres. Gradually the older we got, the circle started to close and we came back around to the music we first fell in love with.
How do you go about turning an idea into a song? I gather that for Paradise Lost, it's somewhat of a democratic process. It starts with me sending our vocalist some guitar melodies and riffs. He will add some vocal melodies to this and we go backwards and forwards like this until we are happy with a song. Then we present it to the rest of the band and they give us criticism, positive and negative, and we tweak until we are happy.
One of the most appealing things about Paradise Lost's music historically, but especially on the last couple of albums, is the relationship between riffs and leads in the guitar parts. How much conscious thought or intent do you put into this relationship? I treat the guitar parts more as intertwining melodies. I imagine them as vocal or string lines so that even without any vocals over the top they would still stand up as a solid piece of music.