When someone from the old guard of the underground goes back to their roots, there’s a certain degree of unmistakable authenticity. Like, they’ve been there, done that, done something else, but it’s much better when they come back to do it as opposed to a new band doing it. If that makes any sense. From what Bloodbath started in 1999 with their Breeding Death EP has turned into a beast that few can control. The thirst for classic sounds will forever go unquenched, apparently.
The latest entry in the fray is Vallenfyre, the side-project of Paradise Lost guitarist Gregor Mackintosh. On their A Fragile King debut, the band aims right at the crusty late 80’s death metal target, spewing forth a girth of weighty riffs, stone-cold guitar lines, and Mackintosh’s surprisingly vicious roar. An album created as means of Mackintosh coping with his father’s 2009 death, A Fragile King channels Mackintosh’s feelings into a vicious, straight-to-the-point death metal offering, as heard on the menacing “Desecration,” “Ravenous Whore,” and “My Black Siberia.”
Mackintosh was kind enough to phone Blistering during the recording of Paradise Lost’s forthcoming 13th studio album, and invariably, conversation spilled into PL territory, but before we waxed on the legendary doom veterans, Vallenfyre was the point of discussion. Read on…
Blistering.com: Before everything happened with your dad, was there any inkling to do something like this? You’re always so busy with Paradise Lost, so I don’t know how you’d manage to fit another band in.
Gregor Mackintosh: It’s the kind of music that has remained in the background of my head. I’ve held onto demos and records from that point in time, but I never had any inkling to do it again myself. It was something that was caused by the last few years and I’ve thought about it in my head, but I never thought I’d do anything. My dad dying was the catalyst and I thought, “What’s the worst that could happen?”
Blistering.com: How helpful was doing A Fragile King in terms of helping you get yourself back together after his passing?
Mackintosh: It was two-fold, really. The first part was not getting over it, but coming to terms with it, really. Writing some of the lyrics was venting, that was the first step. The second step was when I realized that it was less helpful to be wallowing in it. Getting friends involved, and getting good friends to just have fun with it, basically was a big step. It turned from a catharsis, into something that was fun to do.
Blistering.com: You talk in the bio about how your dad drove you to shows, and my dad did the same thing for me before I could drive.
Mackintosh: Initially, it was because none of us could drive [laughs]. And no one else’s parents would do it, but my dad was the only one that an interest in what we were doing. He was engineer by trade and I think it was that curiosity to learn how things work that got him excited about what we were doing. He was interested to see how it all came together and who was doing what. That led him to taking him to [record] our demos and early live shows. Over the years, he had a general interest, asking about which bands we were playing with, then checking them out.
Blistering.com: You have a lot of old friends in Vallenfyre with you, including Adrian [Erlandsson, PL drummer], so how easy was it to put the band together?
Mackintosh: It was really easy to decide who I wanted to do it with me. These guys, I see them all the time. That wasn’t the hard thing. The hard thing was getting everyone in the same place for the recording because Scoot [bass] was in America with Doom, Adrian was off doing some At the Gates shows, and we had some shows to wrap up with Paradise Lost. To choose the people, it was a no-brainer; my closest friends, really.
Blistering.com: You’ve essentially played guitar with Aaron [Aedy, Paradise Lost] throughout your career, so what’s it like being teamed with two other guitarists?
Mackintosh: I found it really easy probably because I wrote the stuff. The other guys, I think they were daunted. Hamish [Glencross, guitars] before he joined My Dying Bride 10 or 15 years ago, he was really into the old Paradise Lost stuff. I think he was worried about doing it justice. I think they found it harder than I did.
Blistering.com: Any live gigs booked?
Mackintosh: We haven’t done any yet, only because Adrian and I are in the studio with Paradise Lost, but we have some booked for 2012. We’ve been offered some festivals in Europe and I’ve been pushing to get a tour of the U.S. together, but that all depends on if people like and if local promoters will take us and a bigger band will ask us to support us. So we say, please hassle your local promoter to have us [laughs].
Blistering.com: Your vocals are one of the most impressive things about A Fragile King and you sound a bit like Nick [Holmes, Paradise Lost vocalist] did back in the day. Did you know you could growl in this manner?
Mackintosh: Not at all – it was by accident [laughs]. It was in the early stages in demoing and I couldn’t think of anyone I was good friends with that could do the style that suited the music. It was a combination of that, and the lyrics being so personal. I just felt like giving it a go and I did a few demo tracks after rehearsing and I played it for the rest of the guys, who said I should do the whole lot. I kinda just fell into; there’s never been any plan. It’s started off with a little pebble and it’s gathering momentum. As long as we’re having fun with it.