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Mediocre and Adolescent - 44%

DawnoftheShred, February 18th, 2009

“Magic lady of the Snake Cult stands, high on the voodoo mountain”

Cathedral is about the strangest band to come out of the 90’s doom revival. Opting to go with neither the epic sound of bands like Solitude Aeturnus, nor the gritty devastation of a band like Saint Vitus, Cathedral developed a variation on Sleep-style stoner metal that is as bizarre as it is heavy. Songs littered with sound clips, simple riffs with complicated soundscapes, and a singer with an absurd resolve for the unorthodox: all these are trademarks of the Cathedral sound. And for the most part, it’s not a good thing.

For a release described as doom metal, there isn’t a hell of a lot of doom to be found. People say their sludgy downtuned riffs are reminiscent of Black Sabbath; I say the only thing they have in common with Sabbath are that they’re a four-piece. Downtempo heavy rock is a better description for songs like “The Unnatural World” and “Freedom,” with the only doom manifesting in the occasional riff or two (or “Dust of Paradise”). If anything this stuff is more like Rob Zombie or Black Label Society, and at times it borders on indie rock (“Captain Clegg,” “Kaleidoscope of Desire”). The only real musically enjoyable passages occur during acoustic departures, such as the “Symptom of the Universe” inspired outro to “Voodoo Fire” or the instrumental “The Caravan.”

But the thing that strikes me most about this band is their immaturity. I’m not talking about the charming, purposeful crudeness utilized by GWAR; Caravan Beyond Redemption is the result of impulsive, adolescent musicianship. Everything about these songs seems so misplaced, from the random funk groove of “Freedom” or “Heavy Load” to the abundant clip sampling and random acoustic interludes (despite how nice the band’s atmospheric work is the departures are no less out of place in the songs). Cathedral are like the Cephalic Carnage of doom metal: interspersing whatever they want into their otherwise basic formula whenever they want to.

Lyrical immaturity is even more notable. Imagine this conversation if you will:

Scene: Cathedral band practice, Lee Dorian’s Basement

Lee: Hey guys, I just came up some killer riffs for a song, but I don’t have any lyrics yet. Any ideas?
Brian: uh…..
Garry: hmmm…what if we wrote about Satan? No….
Leo: uh… how about robots? No….
Lee: I got it! Satanic robots.
All: sweeeeet
Lee’s Mom (from upstairs): You boys getting hungry? I made some sandwiches…
Garry: No relish on mine please. That stuff makes me barf.

This scene runs through my head every time I listen to “Captain Clegg” or “Satanikus Robotikus.” Listening to Caravan Beyond Redemption is like listening to a bunch of kids, or more specifically, a bunch of kids who grew up listening to Black Sabbath and wrote their own lyrics about ridiculous fantasy crap and saved them ‘til they were old enough to use them in a band. Take into account that the singer’s delivery (which is hard to describe, you better just hear it) makes the words sound even sillier and the record loses a lot of credibility. I could see my kid brother listening to this, but not myself. Get the picture?

It’s a curiously bad record too, as I’ve heard earlier and later Cathedral releases that are far less embarrassing than this one (though still plagued by that damn singer…). Indulging a bit too much in their stoner rock fetish mars what would otherwise be an okay listen.