Interview with lead vocalist Nick Holmes | By Christopher J. Harrington
On Paradise Lost’s newest behemoth, Medusa—out now via Nuclear Blast—the legendary death/doom gothers play like they’re stretching up out of the earth. There’s this crusty elasticity that encircles each organic breath, each swirling wind. You’re subdued by the power and enchanted by the mysticism. For a band who are nearly three decades old, the record is a testament to a true and original voice.
“I’ve never once thought that I wasn’t enjoying this,” lead vocalist Nick Holmes remarks. “I mean, you have to be into doing this to make it real. It’s a very artistic way of life. What we have with Paradise Lost is an amazing piece of escapism. We’re very lucky to have been able to do this for so long, and we never take it for granted.”
Medusa sees the Halifax, England-based quintet at the height of their powers. Like a blinding storm in the mountains of infinity, the new record encases each and every portal that makes Paradise Lost so unique. One of the very first—and certainly most influential—death/doom bands, the group have never been too shy to experiment—see the synth-pop-ish LP, One Second, from 1997—and with Medusa, it’s a master class from the masters. It’s pure doom, but infinitely tasteful in its nuance.
“We just wanted to make it as heavy as possible,” Holmes says. “We all grew up as death metal kids. Throughout the ‘80s, we really stuck together. I mean, there really weren’t a lot of people to talk to about this stuff,” he laughs. “We’ve been able to stay creative for so long because we built such a strong bond in the beginning.”
Underneath the crushing riffs and melodic insanity, Paradise Lost are a band who speak of the human condition: the pain, the torture, the bleakness, but also, the light. Holmes is a darkened poet who utilizes a varying template to paint landscapes of intensity. Each fluxing drift on Medusa is epic; a pattern of realness is stretched out like a lampshade’s shadow. It’s a complete album, and one that is infinitely dense.
“There’s definitely a lot of metaphorical and humanistic stuff going on in Medusa,” Holmes notes. “I believe living for the day is something that’s extremely important, and this viewpoint certainly influences my writing and my overall approach. I think the pagan way of life has been utterly dismissed by contemporary society, and that’s truly depressing. I think physicality and identification with nature is essential to the life experience, and I think modern religion is absolutely insane. The crap that’s peddled today is like snake oil.”
There’s a grander theme to the new record, and Paradise Lost achieve this sense of wonder and directness with a burgeoning overall design. The album moves from doom ballad to proto-death number on a dime, with a backdrop of ambience and total scene. You’re swept away visually as well as aurally—a quality the band have always been remarkably adept at capturing.
“[Guitarist and keyboardist] Greg [Mackintosh] and I are huge film guys,” Holmes shares. “Actually, we talk about movies more than anything. We’ve always looked at our albums sort of like soundtracks. I think the landscapes we paint are like moving scenes. We’re certainly going for something really bleak on Medusa. I mean, we’ve been massive horror fans for, like, 35 years now, so that’s obviously influencing us.”
Almost three decades after their inception, Paradise Lost are more intense and more realized than ever. Medusa is a beast, another landmark record in a forest of many.
“I love looking at all the different Paradise Lost album covers,” Holmes says. “It’s the ultimate reference point to my life. I mean, I started with the band when I was, like, 17, and I’m 46 now, so all those records represent new chapters in my life. It’s an amazing thing.”