Cathedral - Topic

Endtyme Play

Upon its release, Cathedral's Endtyme was heavily touted as a "back to basics" album for the British doom originators -- but this isn't exactly true. After taking its neo-hippie metal as far as it could, Lee Dorrian's combo certainly seems bent on revisiting the slothful, post-Sabbath dirge that characterized its earliest releases. But unlike its record company, the group doesn't seem nearly as convinced about taking such a large step backwards. Instead, while Endtyme certainly boasts an inordinate amount of plodding down-tuned anthems, even the slowest grinds contained here ("Requiem for the Sun," "Ultra Earth") manage to retain some of the energy and diversity displayed (even if in haphazard fashion) on the group's late-'90s albums. More disappointing is the fact that, once again, Cathedral falls well short of delivering a truly consistent album -- something the band only came close to achieving with mid-era releases like The Ethereal Mirror and The Carnival Bizarre. In fact, Endtyme only boasts two or three truly excellent tracks, including the gloomy "Melancholy Emperor" and the sullen "Alchemist of Sorrows." Sabbath-isms abound throughout the album, and work both to its advantage (the "Orchid"-like guitar intro to "Sea Serpent," for instance) and disadvantage (the unoriginal "Planet Caravan" takeoff "Astral Queen"). Downright weird experiments like the silly "Whores to Oblivion," on the other hand, could hardly be classified as true doom metal. Yet, despite its air of forced excess (driven home by 13-minute monster closer "Templars Arise [The Return]"), most fans are bound to agree that Endtyme offers a more focused and satisfying experience than Cathedral's recent efforts -- but a doom classic it is not. ~ Eduardo Rivadavia, Rovi

Caravan Beyond Redemption Play

Caravan Beyond Redemption is a captivating album for all of its 70-plus-minute running time. Starting from their usual brand of doom metal, heavily influenced by Black Sabbath, but boasting an original, individual style at the same time, Cathedral throw in various surprises this time to make things interesting. While the "stoner" rock style dominates the sound, '70s funk infects the rhythms -- most of these songs feature a (more or less sublime) groove that is irresistible. Sometimes insidious wah-wah guitars recall "Shaft" ("Freedom," "Revolution"), while on other occasions a bongo section adds spice ("Voodoo Fire"). Various voice recordings appear, and "Captain Clegg" is a Hammer Horror homage, complete with movie samples. "The Caravan" is an affectionate nod to Cathedral's idols (remember "Planet Caravan"?). All of these elements are integrated organically into the music, which nonetheless is a crushing fest of heavy yet melodic riffs. Vocalist Lee Dorrian's voice is cleaner this time (actually intelligible), going with the harmonies instead of fighting against them -- though he doesn't give up his growling shouter persona. The lyrics mostly reward investigation, with a lot of social commentary and inspired madness; the words of "The Omega Man" (greetings from "Iron Man") are truly eerie, presenting a mixture of paranoia and apocalypse. After the last song (which surprises the listener by getting slower instead of faster) is over, there's five minutes of silence (Cathedral's extended version of "4'33"?), followed by some senseless crowd noises. Never mind this hidden "track"; the 12 songs on Caravan Beyond Redemption are inspired and intelligent and definitely worth seeking out. ~ Christian Genzel, Rovi

Soul Sacrifice Play

The hard-to-find Soul Sacrifice EP captures the unique heavy metal band at a rare moment in their evolution away from dreary grindcore tendencies towards their own style of upbeat, groove-laden doom metal. Previous releases such as Forest of Equilibrium and In Memoriam found the group laying down snail-paced heavy metal in the vein of Black Sabbath on sedatives with ultra-thick, murky guitar tones and also found ex-Napalm Death vocalist Lee Dorrian growling like a rabid devil dog. Of course, once the group's label Earache had signed a major label deal with Columbia, the group re-recorded the song "Soul Sacrifice" from Forest of Equilibrium and released it with three new songs for curious American audiences. It's rather amazing to compare the lo-fi original version of the song to the glossy re-recorded version. The clarity of the once-blurry guitar tones brings a sense of color to Cathedral's once gray sound while Dorrian makes the transition from guttural grunting sounds to his signature style of hoarse, charismatic singing. It would be interesting to know exactly what went through the band's collective mind at this moment in their career because they sound like an entirely new band. The new "Soul Sacrifice" has metamorphosed into a raging rocker with a striking riff and cutting guitar tone. Dorrian also sounds great, delicately balancing between evil growling and intelligible singing. While the title track may be noteworthy, "Autumn Twilight" remains undoubtedly the true highlight of this EP. This song proves to be a true watermark for the group, showcasing their commitment to elated choruses and familiar song structuring without sacrificing any of their atmospheric mood or darkness. ~ Jason Birchmeier, Rovi

The Carnival Bizarre Play

The Carnival Bizarre finds Cathedral nailing down their neo-Black Sabbath sound consistently from beginning to end with no filler, setting them apart from nearly every other band in the mid-'90s heavy metal scene. The album's consistency arises most likely from the band's streamlined lineup with only vocalist/lyricist Lee Dorrian and guitarist Gaz Jennings remaining from proceeding releases. These two collaborate on each of the ten songs, perfecting their formula for gothic fairytales set to monstrous grooves of castle-sized guitar riffs. The album's title track serves as a perfect example of how Cathedral has grown and polished its unique style more easily explained by what it isn't than what it is. On this particular song, Jennings breaks off almost immediately into the song's central riff as Dorrian begins to map out his fantastic motifs: "Ride with me on a shooting star/Through galaxies of death we chase/Skeletal king of paradise." The song has a catchy chorus that has Dorrian changing the pitch of his voice from his deep, dark gravely tone to a juxtaposing high-pitched voice nearly as rough. Several tangents make this song more than just a standard rock tune in the style of "Ride" from the group's preceding album. It is at these moments that Jennings proves just how amazing of a guitar player he has become, moving through an ambient section of psychedelic-phasing guitar tones to a contemplative guitar solo with an overdubbed backing riff that takes the song on a journey to its post-eight minute conclusion. Nearly every one of the other ten songs makes small alterations on this same template, with Dorrian's mapped-out lyrics keeping the songs within the confines of traditional rock structuring and Jennings' ever-mobile guitar serving as the musical equivalent to the otherworldly lyrical topics. ~ Jason Birchmeier, Rovi

Forest of Equilibrium Play

Along with the early material chronicled on In Memorium, Forest of Equilibrium remained an artifact of Cathedral's early gloom sound before they eventually evolved into one of the more exciting heavy metal bands of the mid-'90s. Still fresh from his infamous stint as the looming vocalist for the original and most notorious grindcore band ever, Napalm Death, vocalist Lee Dorrian teams up with the guitarist duo of Garry Jennings and Adam Lehan to create some of the most lumbering heavy metal ever heard. The group takes the grinding guitar tones of grindcore and slows them down to a nearly unbearable pace capable to either hypnotizing the listener or inducing sleep. While the two guitarists churn out their doomy guitar riffs, Dorrian does his best to balance the delicate line between singing lyrics with hints of harmony and emanating deathly growls from the depths of his dark soul. Besides the guitars and vocals, the songs themselves actually deserve some recognition despite their tendency to creep along at a sometimes tedious pace. "Ebony Tears" and "Funeral Request" in particular still stand as two of the group's more memorable songs even if this early sound has since been abandoned. In addition to these two songs, "Soul Sacrifice" deserves some notice as the one song to actually up the album's tempo towards mosh-friendly levels -- though it is much better performed on the succeeding Soul Sacrifice EP. The ultra-murky sound quality of Forest of Equilibrium also makes it a unique album far different from any of the group's other releases. Like the dense layers of compressed distortion that transform the group's guitar tones into monolithic waves of bone-shaking sound, the poor sound quality gives the album a surreal sense of dense, dusty murk that nearly eclipses the music with a shroud of disorientation. This album doesn't compare to later Cathedral albums such as The Carnival Bizarre in terms of artistry or consistent style, but it does possess an undeniable aura of dark gloom that these later albums can only hope to emulate with their increasingly clean sound and hints of joy. ~ Jason Birchmeier, Rovi

The Guessing Game Play

Cathedral's ninth studio album, their first since 2005's The Garden of Unearthly Delights, is a double disc, and it features some of the most psychedelic, progressive material in the band's entire catalog. Originally formed out of vocalist Lee Dorrian's distaste for the burgeoning death metal sound of his previous band, grindcore pioneers/stalwarts Napalm Death, Cathedral sounded like a pure throwback to the doom of the early '70s on their first few releases, but over the course of their long career, their albums have displayed rock & roll swagger and lysergic experimentation. The Guessing Game is in many ways a magnum opus, offering examples of everything Cathedral does well. "Casket Chasers" is a roaring stoner metal anthem worthy of modern doomsters like Down or any of Scott "Wino" Weinrich's bands, while the eight-minute "Funeral of Dreams" is a multifaceted, retro-psychedelic excursion reminiscent of Uriah Heep. "Requiem for the Voiceless" is pure, creeping Sabbathian horror, while "Cats, Incense, Candles & Wine" shifts from acoustic strumming to a jazz-funk groove. Retro instrumentation (flutes and Mellotron in particular) and production techniques abound. This album lives up to its title in spades; it's impossible to predict, listening to one song, what the next one will sound like, except for the general surety that it'll sound like it could have been recorded (on tape, not into a hard drive) anytime between 1969 and today. ~ Phil Freeman, Rovi

Supernatural Birth Machine Play

Having ridden out the initial explosion of grindcore to the point where stoner rock became its own revived genre, due credit for longevity has to go to Dorrian and his compatriots, not least because Dorrian helped out said genre with his Rise Above label and such signings as Sleep. As for his own band, on Supernatural, Dorrian leads everyone through more semi-tributes to the Black Sabbath sound; Dorrian's own ghost-of-Ozzy vocals often get as close to outright mimicry as possible, though generally he avoids straining for the high notes when possible. Drummer Dixon and bassist Smee do their business with relatively little fuss; if nothing else, having better production standards than the original Sabbath did allows their work to always bust forth pretty well. Jennings, meanwhile, is as monstrous and crunching as always, while wise enough to let in lighter moments from time to time, as with the mid-song break on "Stained Glass Horizon." If the subject matter and delivery is a little more self-conscious than, say, that of the Melvins, Cathedral at least has the courage of its convictions, right down to the neo-prog inner sleeve art (dragon heads, historical figures, demons, and angels in a Bosch-style landscape, and so forth). Highlights: Well, if one likes Sabbath, liking the whole album (or alternately dismissing it out of hand for the real thing) will pretty much be the end result. Though a few stand out even more, such as "Cyclops Revolution," with appropriately distorted monster-doom vocals at points, and the appropriately spooked-out vibes of "Nightmare Castle." One thing's for sure: if one wants classically pulpy SF/horror/fantasy scenarios for lyrics combined with brain-melting sludge, this is the place. Thus, song titles like "Urko's Conquest," "Birth Machine 2000," and the "can it be any more appropriate" metacrunch of "Suicide Asteroid." ~ Ned Raggett, Rovi

The Ethereal Mirror Play

Cathedral's second full-length album, The Ethereal Mirror, finds the group experimenting a bit with new sounds on their path to discovering the patented sound they would polish on succeeding releases. Hints of their lumbering doom sound from Forest of Equilibrium characterize songs such as "Phantasmagoria," but for the most part Cathedral picks up the pace and instills a welcome sense of groove into their monolithic guitar riffs. Two songs from the album in particular stand out due to their up-beat tempos: the anthemic opener, "Ride," and the metal-disco of "Midnight Mountain." These two songs aren't up-tempo in the sense of death metal or grindcore, but they actually owe a lot to late '60s and early '70s hard rock anthems such as Steppenwolf's "Born to Be Wild" and Black Sabbath's "Supernaut." Singer/lyricist Lee Dorrian's background as a member of the U.K.'s grindcore movement in the late '80s and the ultra-heavy guitar tones of the group elevates songs such as "Ride" above generic proto-heavy metal recycling. Dorrian's voice sounds unlike traditional rock vocalists as he tries his best to sing despite the grave darkness remaining from his past as a growling madman in Napalm Death. Furthermore, his lyrics feature more fairytale-inspired nightmarish qualities than Ozzy Osbourne ever came close to writing. But for as important as Dorrian is to Cathedral as their undeniable leader, the epic guitar riff-laden soundscapes of Garry Jennings and Adam Lehan drive these songs and set perfectly gloomy moods for Dorrian's black magic poetry. ~ Jason Birchmeier, Rovi

In Memoriam Play

When Cathedral singer Lee Dorrian first released In Memoriam on his Rise Above label in 1994, it was an EP containing four rare studio tracks from October 1990: "All Your Sins," "Ebony Tears," "Mourning of a New Day" and "March" (all of which had been recorded before Cathedral signed with Earache). Then, in 1999, In Memoriam became a full-length album when five live tracks from 1991 shows in Holland and Belgium were added. The concept was still the same; Dorrian was looking back on Cathedral's beginnings, and the addition of the live material (which includes performances of most of the abovementioned songs as well as "Neophytes for the Serpent Eve" and "Commiserating the Celebration") made In Memoriam all the more attractive to Cathedral's diehard fans. To be sure, this CD was assembled with the diehard fan in mind. Not for casual listeners, In Memoriam doesn't contain Cathedral's more essential work. But if you're seriously into the Black Sabbath-influenced doom metal band, it's an interesting collection that's worth picking up. ~ Alex Henderson, Rovi

Soul Sacrifice/Statik Majik Play

This CD includes Cathedral's second and third EPs, 1992's Soul Sacrifice and 1994's Statik Majik. Black Sabbath-inspired riffs, solid musicianship, and good production make for a pretty good listen. These recordings have all the trappings of "classic" doom metal, with some more "modern" touches. Swirling keyboards, guitars, and a solid rhythm section make up a really well-produced and interesting musical base. Occasionally though, the attempts at "retro" soundscapes are so over the top it seems almost like a joke. Handclaps and Fu Manchu-styled staccato spoken vocals on "Midnight Mountain" from Statik Majik, or the atonal intro to "The Voyage of the Homeless Sapien," complete with flute and bird sounds (from the same EP), are goofy enough to seem like self-mockery. They're not, though. Cathedral is serious about wizards and dragons, and the approach taken to creating music with mystical themes is serious in playing, production, and presentation. While the performance and production are far better than previous Cathedral material, listening to Soul Sacrifice gets pretty distracting because of a decision to double all the vocal tracks when recording. The end result is hearing the same guy sing along with himself, never exactly matching his own vocal. This production choice comes across sounding pretty goofy, and reduces the stand-alone overall strength of the music. Aside from some silly parts here and there, these EPs are both musically solid and feature great riffs inspired not only by Sabbath, but also by "classic" doom standouts Candlemass, Saint Vitus, and Trouble, as well as contemporaries Fu Manchu and Sleep. In fact, the impression at times that Cathedral basically took a bunch of riff ideas from each of these bands and put them together in new ways is likely no accident. But, as Monster Magnet's Dave Wyndorf says on Spine of God, "We ain't no pioneers, we just sort what we like from what's already there." This wouldn't be the first Cathedral CD to recommend, but it is good stuff, and it's always great when bands re-release hard-to-find material like this. ~ Paul Kott, Rovi

The Serpent's Gold Play

One part best-of compilation and one part rarities collection, doom innovators Cathedral have a two-disc set for old fans and new with The Serpent's Gold. Broken up into The Serpent's Treasure (best-of) and The Serpent's Chest (demos and rarities), this collection has a little something for any doom fan, regardless of their level of initiation. Whether you're a seasoned Cathedral fan looking for some new takes on some old jams, or someone diving into their catalog for the first time, The Serpent's Gold has a little something for everyone. ~ Gregory Heaney, Rovi
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