Friday, December 30, 2011
By: Chris Davison
Such a bittersweet pain, is writing this review! Cathedral were one of the first doom bands that I really got into during my university days, and they have never failed to entertain me, nor indeed to plough their own furrow. The band have been massively influential on any number of bands, and have refused to be pigeonholed by the narrow genre constrictions sometimes imposed by the more po-faced of the doom-metal “elite;” a curious sub-race of armchair critics and keyboard warriors dictating their own spurious rules on what is, or is not, quality doom metal. Having announced that they would record one final album in 2012, this live album – a funeral celebration of their past work – was recorded at the Islington Academy.
Essentially paying homage to all of their fans, the set list comprises of their first (and almost universally lauded) album Forest Of Equilibrium, and then a number of songs from the remainder of their albums, during which time they were either derided as doom heretics for the increasing amounts of film samples and schlocky content of their lyrics, or applauded for their willingness to take doom metal away from po-faced conceptions of gazing miserably at old stone monuments and endlessly re-hashing Black Sabbath riffs. I think it is fairly clear that while I acknowledge the amazing amount of influence the Forest... album had, I generally prefer their mid-to-late period.
The Forest... material is played with complete straight faced reverence, with a warts-and-all production sound that showcases just how much heavier Cathedral always are in the live environment than on record with the particularly crushing bass work of Leo Smee and effortless axe smithery of Gaz Jennings gelling perfectly with the classic rock drum work of Brian Dixon, and the ape-like yowls of Mr Lee Dorrian on vocals. The bottom end heavy production accentuates the innate heaviness of tracks like “Serpent Eve,” which takes on a gargantuan, titanic stomp to its sound on this album.
After the reverential run through of their initial album, the fun can really begin, however. I defy any sane metal fan not to enjoy the faux-funk-as-channelled-through-Witchfinder-General romp of “Midnight Mountain,” which is so bass heavy and groove-laden here, it should be renamed “Midnight Mounting.” “Carnival Bizarre” continues to impress, with a perfect melding of mid-paced classic metal stomping riff, progressive leanings and a crystal clear production that manages to show the tightness of a band that has been together for so many years. “Corpsecyle,” a seemingly upbeat track that talks about the zombiefication of the 9 to 5 grind shows how astonishingly complex Cathedral were at their best – managing to combine extremity, hook-laden song writing and clever lyrical content.
As a “best of”, of course, this album doesn't quite make it, as 2004's The Serpent's Gold manages to capture most of their classic material, along with a host of hard-to-find demo versions and off cuts, but as a perfect capture of the Cathedral Live experience? I honestly don't think there could have been a more apt tribute to the dying days of the true giants of doom metal.
In summary: get it.