The Myth of the Peaceville Three

This piece is a long lost companion section to Decibel #92 cover story Paradise Lost. It explores and debunks the myth of the Peaceville Three—Paradise Lost, My Dying Bride, and Anathema—connecting and riffing off one another in the early to mid-’90s. Think of it as an updated version of fellow Decibel contributor Greg Moffitt’s UK doom explorations in the Masters of Misery expose, as masterfully penned in Decibel #50.
For the longest time, the media—hey, that’s us, too!—perpetuated the stereotype of the so-called ‘Peaceville Three’. Specifically, Paradise Lost, My Dying Bride, and Anathema as some sort of Super Doom Team set out for the sole purpose of making teenage dudes introspect. To be fair, Decibel’s own Greg Moffitt tried in vain to dispel the myth in a December 2008 [with grumpy …And Justice-era Metallica on the cover] Masters of Misery article about the origins of the ‘Peaceville Three’ against the backdrop of Paradise Lost’s 20th anniversary show, which included strangely enough live performances from My Dying Bride and Anathema. Perhaps it was the fact that Peaceville’s most notable and sales-worthy bands—Extra Hot Sauce and Tekton Motor Corporation failed to make much of a dent, naturally—were all on the same label from the same country around approximately the same time. As Halmshaw explains in Moffitt’s expertly penned piece, Peaceville didn’t have a master plan to lord over UK’s most precious doom/death metal acts/exports, while the rest of labeldom were left with bottom-feeder acts in Enchantmant, Chorus of Ruin, and Acrimony. As with Paradise Lost, it was with My Dying Bride and Anathema. Goddamned geography.

“It’s an urban myth,” states Mackintosh. “I think Anathema and My Dying Bride formed in 1990 or 1991. We had already been gigging by then. And we had an album. We were on vinyl, which was a huge deal back then. And we were already off Peaceville in 1992. We were never really part of the so-called ‘Peaceville Three’. We hadn’t played with My Dying Bride until our 20th anniversary a few years back. I do recall Anathema supporting us in Liverpool. What I remember about that gig was they were very young kids. But, more importantly, we were at the bar and they go into a cover of “Eternal” from the Gothic album. We were thinking, ‘Shit! Why’d they cover this song?! We got to go on stage and play the same song!’ They ended up playing it slightly better than us, which was annoying.”

“Basically, from my recollection of the early days the ‘Big 3’ didn’t actually exist in its present form,” My Dying Bride guitarist Andrew Craighan adds. “What I mean was the bands were all there, but kind of oblivious to the other two and very much all were (if My Dying Bride are to be used as a gauge) doing their own thing. I never really liked Paradise Lost or Anathema’s earlier stuff to be honest and deliberately never listened to them because of the Peaceville/Northern England Doom connection.”

But therein lay a not-so-quiet rivalry. Not from Paradise Lost’s point of view—“I wouldn’t call it a competition,” Holmes giggles sardonically—but from that of My Dying Bride and Anathema it was game on. In many respects, Peaceville’s younger two felt they had something to prove by constantly measuring their, uh, woebegone worth. To be heavier, more experimental, or possessing and therefore expressing truer emotions; Anathema’s Danny Cavanagh outright accuses the other two of faking it in Moffitt’s exposition. “They viewed us as competition,” Mackintosh confirms, “but we never viewed them as competition. It never even crossed our minds. It wasn’t until years later that I spoke to Andy from My Dying Bride. He said, ‘In every interview they ask us about Paradise Lost.’ I think it used to annoy them. We never got any questions about My Dying Bride.”

“They [Paradise Lost] were our rivals then and us theirs,” Craighan asserts. “So, to us it was competition if anything. Be heavier. Be doomier. Be more morose. More brutal. Anything. So, in that respect they were a great influence on us as they kept us trying to be better at being My Dying Bride, for a while anyway. Once My Dying Bride had kind of clearly become the band it is we stopped taking any notice of them completely. Then, I suppose all three bands quite dramatically went their very own ways.”

OK, so there is no such thing as the ‘Peaceville Three’. Not in the minds, hearts, or music of the bands that helped coin the descriptor. But that doesn’t mean the towering triad didn’t influence a great deal of musicians and bands, as well as Anglophile magazine editors, over the course of their select and impressive discographies. That Paradise Lost’s Gothic and My Dying Bride’s Turn Loose the Swans have been inducted into the Hall of Fame isn’t a surprise to bands from Chicago and Santiago to Stockholm and Lazio who have taken what they wanted from England’s brightest lose-hearters and ran with it. Even so, the indelible fingerprints of Peaceville’s finest are and always will be recognizable. “It’s a very specific sub-genre,” says Mackintosh. “Often, bands influenced by us, and move on to do something of their own. We started out the same way. That’s how music starts. I remember the first time I heard Katatonia. It was in our manager’s office. He was playing Katatonia. I guess he thought I was moonlighting on another record. I thought the same thing when I first heard Lacuna Coil, with Andreas’ vocals. It’s like, ‘Christ! He sounds like Nick. It’s unbelievable!’ The thing is both bands went on to carve out their own niche in music. It’s a reference point. We had ours. And we were theirs.”

** Paradise Lost’s new album, Tragic Idol, is out now on Century Media Records. Be a king and grab it HERE.