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With cider in their hearts and cheap nasty resin in their lungs, Cathedral entered the studio in late 1988 to record an album which is slower than the rate at which your garden grows. Late 1988? Well indeed, Cathedral being the kings of downtrodden snail-paced doom which they are, took around 3 years to vacate their woodland glade in which they resided…and they bumped into Neil from the Young Ones on the way and things got confusing, indeed, Lee thought he was a living mirror…HEAVY!
Cathedral in 1991 made the kind of unholy, extraordinarily fucked up racket that could only come from men who spent their whole time drinking special brew and getting high (which was Lee’s favourite past time till around 1995). Believe me, this is a rather a unsettling listen; the quirky sense of melody, the muddy yet entrancing production and the rather institution worthy vocal performance. Everything here is designed to suffocate…there is no way out of the Forest, one must perhaps befriend the troglodyte figures who inhabit it and be prepared to overlook their lack of social graces as they may well be your future husband/wife. Atmosphere, by George, this album has it, performance and production can be rendered rather unnecessary to analyse when they all amount to this audio asphyxiation. Was it the birth of death doom? Well, I’ve heard of both those words in singular form but the term means nothing to me…and ‘Forest of Equilibrium’ stands on its own, nothing of this sort was going on in the early 1990s, sure their was doom metal but did it make me think of night time woods and giant mushrooms? Great Scott, it did not.
That said, the idea of traditional song writing has not been completely eschewed. Many catchy tunes can be found here and the album is generally consistent as a forest itself is generally leafy (that being of the evergreen variety, of course). ‘Commiserating the Celebration’ and the intro (which are both one song on my edition of the album) are splendid. The intro provides a necessary harmony before the general discord of the album itself, painting a picture of a doleful existence, before the dense guitars simply beat you into submission. ‘Soul Sacrifice’ provides relief, it’s the only short and up tempo song here. But again oppressive heaviness is its aim. The riffing takes on a interesting Priest meets Zeppelin twist. ‘Ebony Tears’ is perhaps the finest accomplishment of the whole album, with a strangely beautiful quality to it and the lyrics portray a tale of love turned to shame. Melodies crawl forth from amplifiers, but rather than relief they only smother much like some postnatal mother... you know, makeup runs down her face as the infant finally kicks the bucket.
The actual enjoyment of this album is entirely subjective, ‘Forest of Equilibrium’ is a fickle mistress dependent entirely on the listeners mood. At present, I am a still quite high and drunk from the night before and the albums overwhelming sense of abject misery makes so much sense it’s frightening. Yet still, the album itself is punishing whatever mood you may be in.
One of the songs isn’t up to par. ‘Serpent Eve’ displays Lee’s vocals becoming perhaps a little too gothic and the song itself is overdrawn. But the album itself rarely descends into a “by numbers” approach that plagues the genre.
In short, you don’t truly know heaviness until you’ve lost yourself in this album. ‘Forest of Equilibrium’ is a unique experience, separate from everything else in terms of general cider-hangover-meets-bad-drugs oppressiveness. So go forth and purchase, but beware, leave a trail of jelly beans or something, as you’ll want to remember your way out of the Forest. My hazy vision, splitting headache, loss of balance…all a product of the Forest, take heed and don’t eat the mushrooms!