British metal institution Paradise Lost have made their heaviest album in a generation. Normally when a band trots out the “it’s our heaviest yet!” cliché, they’re likely to be spinning bullshit, but the goth metal pioneers’ 14th opus, The Plague Within, is full of death growls and crushing doom riffs, proving that their return to a more extreme sound is an unquestionable reality.
But then, of course, guitarist Greg Mackintosh has been playing filthy death metal in Vallenfyre for the last few years and singer Nick Holmes recently joined Swedish death metallers Bloodbath. Nick explains that, while those developments may have had some effect, The Plague Within grew from a conscious desire to shake things up…/o:p
WHAT LED TO THIS ALBUM BEING SO HEAVY?
“Greg was obviously doing Vallenfyre, and whether he likes it or not, I’m sure subconsciously that’s going to affect him. The last five or six years, he’s got a lot more into the old-school death metal again. He’s gone back to it and revisited it. I guess that has a knock-on effect that’s affected me – I’ve done a similar thing with Bloodbath. When you’re surrounded by all that stuff, it’s going to rub off on you.”
DID YOU MAKE A DELIBERATE DECISION TO HEAD IN A DIFFERENT DIRECTION?
“If you hear something that’s not Vallenfyre or not Bloodbath, it’s perhaps going to sound not as exciting. We want to make what we’re doing as exciting as that, but in a different way. It’s all subconscious. But as far as direction, we thought we had to do something a bit different.”
DOES THE MELODY IN YOUR MUSIC BECOME MORE EFFECTIVE WHEN IT’S SURROUNDED BY AGGRESSION?
“It doesn’t always work. It’s a weird thing; I went through a period when we were writing – it might have been around the late 90s – where I didn’t want to do the death voice at all. I’d kind of gone off that thing altogether. If there was anything heavier, I’d do a softer voice – but it made it sound lame. If a riff is very spiky, if you start singing soft over that, it’s just going to ruin it. So if it’s a spiky riff, you’ve got to sing it with stabby vocals, and it’ll work. For a long time, I always avoided that, because I just wasn’t in that place at that point. But now, some of Greg’s riffs are a lot more in that vein, so you’ve got to give it some bollocks for the vocals to be as effective. Plus, when you’ve done that and then go back to the softer stuff, that’s going to have more impact in a different way. It’s about layering it and giving it a bit more texture.”
HOW DO YOU MAKE SURE IT STILL SOUNDS LIKE PARADISE LOST?
“When Greg plays lead guitar, you can tell it’s Paradise Lost. As soon as that comes in, you know it’s us. People ask, ‘What is the thing that makes the Paradise Lost sound?’ I would say it’s his guitar – his weeping guitar, as we like to call it. I would say that it comes from that more than anything else.”/o:p
DO YOU STILL FEEL A STRONG ATTACHMENT TO THE DEATH METAL RECORDS THAT INFLUENCED YOU WHEN YOU FIRST STARTED DOING THIS?
“The spirit of it, yeah, I guess. Everything goes around and around, and doing this as long as we have, eventually you’re going to go back to where you were and start again. Our personal lives haven’t changed; we haven’t had a bump to the head and turned into something completely different. We’re exactly like the guys we were when we were 18 – we’re just old fuckers now! It’s the same with all the other bands around our age; the guys in Napalm [Death] are similar to us – they were young guys doing it, and now they’re older guys doing it. You never lose that.”
DOES THIS HEAVIER STRAIN OF MUSIC REMIND YOU OF A PARTICULARLY GOOD TIME FOR THE BAND?
“The first six years of the band were probably the best times we’ll ever have in our lives. Not that having children and so on is a bad thing, but it’s that feeling of being a kid that you can never get back. Sometimes we sit down when we’ve had a few drinks and talk about those times – it was such a good laugh, and there are so many stories – and yeah, the music that accompanied that time was all the old shit death metal stuff!”
THE PLAGUE WITHIN IS OUT ON JUNE 1 VIA CENTURY MEDIA/o:p