Paradise Lost has cheered us up with another fantastic doom and gloom record, Obsidian, which was released on Friday (15th) via Nuclear Blast (order here). The follow-up to 2017’s Medusa will most likely be considered as one of the best albums of the year. We caught up with frontman Nick Holmes to discuss their latest effort, the lockdown, and figuring out how to keep ourselves occupied during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The new album feels like a 180 from Medusa, and I mean it in a good way. Obsidian took me back to the early ’90s, there’s a bit of an old school vibe to the mix. I wanted to know what have you done differently with this album compared to your prior efforts?
I think each album, we look at the last one we did as kind of a benchmark to where we’re going to go from. We don’t really look across the entire catalog, what we’ve done, obviously, with 30-odd years. But Medusa is a very specific doom death metal album, it’s a very similar style all the way through. There’s only really one fast song on it, the rest has a similar pace. We just wanted to make this one a little bit more varied. Just the umbrella which we are under isn’t incredibly massive, but there’s still room for variation within that. And that’s what we tried to do on this one.
“Ghosts” is a very catchy track, there was a hint of Bauhaus in there along with a touch of classic gothic-dark wave elements. Can you actually talk more about this song?
It’s not a million miles away from something we probably would have done around. I think we got a song called Say Just Words, it’s along those lines, which is taking the goth element a little bit further from that, really. It’s just very much reminiscent of songs that we would hear when we were kids and we first started going out on the town and going to nightclubs. The clubs were always goth clubs, they played Siouxsie and the Banshees and the Cult and Sisters, and that music was always drilled into our brains from a very young age and we were, obviously young male guys, but we still have a massive soft spot for that era. And also no one’s really repeated that era, either, because there’s nothing, no one even writes music like that anymore. It’s very much of a time, which also makes it quite special I think, because no one’s really done anything… gothic metal or gothic music is different to what it sounds like in the ’80s, now it’s totally a different thing I think, really.
Yeah, it’s definitely different. That’s why this song also brought me back to that time. Were there any particular songs that were more challenging on this album?
They’re all challenging, nothing’s done easily. The least challenging, well, from my perspective was, I won’t speak for Greg because he could have been working on something for months for all I knew. From my perspective, “Darker Thoughts,” the first song on the album came together very quickly as a song and it was very spontaneous and we, Greg and myself, agreed on everything that we did. So the opposite answer to what you asked, but I would say “Darker Thoughts” was the easiest one. You can never tell when you first start writing an album. The first three songs can be a bit drawn out in the writing process because you’re not sure where you want to go with it. “Fall from Grace” was the first song that we wrote for the album, and it was very reminiscent of something from the last album, I think. So yeah, it takes a bit of time for the ball to get rolling, but it’s nice when it’s spontaneous, and then it worked for this time ’round on “Darker Thoughts.” Definitely did.
“Darker Thoughts” as a first track, it really does suck you into the album as a whole. Can you talk more about the songs “Serenity” and “Hope Dies Young?”
“Hope Dies Young” was kind of another way of saying that the phrase teenage dreams are hard to beat. There’s a song from the Undertones where that line is mentioned, but it was brought to my attention more because of the British DJ called John Peel, who I used to listen to his radio show in the ’90s. He used to go on about that phrase all the time, and I think it’s actually on his gravestone now. But when I was a teenager I didn’t even really think about anything it meant, but now I’m not a teenager, and I do totally believe that that phrase really rings true. I do think that your teenage life is the best part of your life, not that being old is not nice, but I think that’s when you discover music for the first time and the music that’s with you in those years is the soundtrack to the rest of your life, really. That stuff always stays with you and that’s a really exciting time. “Hope Dies Young” is another way saying that, really, it’s a more typical Paradise Lost way of saying that phrase, I guess.
“Serenity,” a completely different song. That song would have been probably the opening track on side two of the vinyl version of the album. We always write albums in respect to how it’s going to look on vinyl. So we always think about which songs are going to be the first song and the last song on A side and B side. And “Serenity,” we were thinking about it being a beginning of a B side. It’s… Galloping pace to it. And it’s just very… Lyrically, it just took me away to imagining like medieval battles and that kind of thing and galloping on a horse because that’s the kind of music it is. Each song’s kind of pretty different, really. Looking at the whole lot now, they’re all quite… like I said at the beginning of this conversation, everything’s quite different even under the same Peel umbrella.
Nowadays there’s been a lot of predictions on when concerts and festivals will resume, which could depend on location. When do you think it’s safe for concerts and touring to begin?
I have no idea. The goalposts change every day don’t they? I was doing interviews three weeks ago and everyone thought that September would be fine, and already that’s … a question mark over it. I know a lot of bands are writing off this year completely. Fingers crossed, I’ve still got some hope that towards the end of the year that things are going to get back, but I honestly don’t know. I think social gatherings are going … the big sticking point for a long time. I think when everyone else is back in the usual settings and going to bars, I still think the large gatherings might still be an issue. I don’t know, it’s just, no one knows any answers, really. Just fingers crossed, I guess, back to normal as soon as possible.
How is the lockdown out by you?
Where I am, I live in quite a small town and it’s quite rural, so it’s not drastically different for me personally. If I’m not out touring, I’m at home a lot anyway. My children are working from home. Luckily they didn’t get laid off, so that’s good, they can still work. So is my wife, she’s upstairs working as well, so it’s not too bad for me. I would imagine in kind of busier parts, in cities and flats, it’s a lot harder to deal with. But yeah, the death toll in the UK has kind of gone up incredible, it’s unbelievable how it’s affecting care homes now, that’s the new statistics coming through. So yeah, it’s pretty shocking. It’s a horrible thing. But you know, fingers crossed, it’s gone soon.
Hopefully it is gone and I’m glad that you guys are all safe.
Cheers. We’ve seen a lot of live streams and quarantine videos lately. Do you have any plans on having a live stream event or a record release with this?
No. We would have to meet up to go through things, and if we did stream it, we would probably do it from a studio environment kind of thing. Just jamming it in our bedrooms in our jim-jams is not really our kind of thing, really. I mean, I’ve seen so many people doing it, and it’s just not really our kind of thing. But I wouldn’t be against doing it in a controlled environment in a studio, but we would need to meet up for that to happen and we can’t meet up until that particular aspect of the lockdown has eased off a little bit. We’re not going to be doing the S.O.D.-Type jam thing, which I keep thinking of when you mentioned it, but yeah.
Yeah, I’ve been seeing a lot of pajama videos, so I get you.
Yeah, and everyone’s just kind of looking at what people have in their rooms as well. That’s all it is, just zooming in onto shelves and bookcases to see what books people are reading, it’s just… That’s all anybody does, really, you know?
What do you think the new normal is going to look like once this pandemic comes to an end?
I don’t know. I discuss this every day. I think once they get a cure for it, I think it’ll just go back to normal. Obviously there’s going to be economic problems, and there’s going to be a lot of problems, of course. And obviously it’s no picnic for anyone who’s lost relatives. But I think people will just go back to normal once there’s a cure. It could even just fizzle out. But I just think normal life will resume as it was before. But at the moment, the social distancing thing is kind of weird, everyone’s kind of freaking out about going near each other, and yeah, I don’t know, it’s never happened before, so there’s no rules, is there? We’re kind of writing the blueprint for it, but I think it’s something to think about in the future because you could never rule it out coming back even worse. So it’s kind of scary.
It’s definitely scary. None of us expected this to happen. Do you actually have any advice for fans during this time of isolation?
Just keep yourself busy and exercise as much as you can, and just get out there, get some fresh air if you can. That’s all I’m doing. I think it’s good for your mental health to exercise, keep your brain active, reading, or keep yourself busy. But I just think kind of sitting, wallowing around all day is not particularly healthy, so I try to get out as much as I can. I haven’t been out today, actually, but I might.I just think you’ve got to try and keep your mind occupied and be as physical as you can.
Do you have anything else that you want to say or add about the new album?
Well, yeah. It comes out on the 15th. We didn’t see any point in delaying the release because people are at home, they can enjoy it at home, hopefully enjoy it. As far as playing live, getting over to the States again, well, that’s… There’s a big question mark above all that right now. But as soon as we can, we will be out there and we’ll be hopefully getting back to America again because we had a great time last time, so yeah, hope that everyone likes the album and fingers crossed, take it easy and stay safe.
Thank you. Yeah, I have to say, it is a fantastic record.
All right, thanks.
Right from the first listen. I remember Medusa, I needed about two or three listens, but this one sucked me in right away.
All right, great.
It’s an awesome album.
Hopefully we’ll see you in North America whenever there’s concerts again.
Yeah, well, no. Yeah, definitely, definitely. I mean we’re due to be over there with Bloodbath this month, actually. Yeah, the 21st of May, we were traveling over there with Bloodbath, but that’s obviously not happening now. That’s the third time we’ve had to cancel those shows. We were going to reschedule them, but it’s kind of… Ugh, anyway. I’ve just got to get on with it and fingers crossed, you know? And that’s it.
Yeah. No, that is very unfortunate with Bloodbath, I remember, I think, a year or two ago when things got canceled because of the visas and now this.
Yes. It’s just a case of reaching… The pause button is on everyone’s life, it’s not like it’s just the UK. So I guess it’s the same for everyone. So then we just press the pause button to start again, and then we can start doing stuff again. Same for everyone in the world, I guess.