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The heaviest album ever - 90%

gasmask_colostomy, June 23rd, 2015

If we are talking about sheer heaviness, Cathedral are going to be in your first or your second sentence. The words 'Forest of Equilibrium' are also going to feature, closely followed by the words guitar tone and pure doom. This album isn't perfect, and nor are any of Cathedral's other releases, but I think that was never the point of this band. These guys mucked about for 24 years with a whole host of weird ideas, changing styles, and their own brand of peculiar, always English, humour. 'Forest of Equilibrium' stands as the most serious and the most deliberate of all their releases, following as it does a path of absolute doom worship; there are no diversions here, no concessions, and no light to illuminate the gloom of the forest. Welcome to the heaviest album ever.

If I only needed to review guitar tone, this album would get 100%. If I was only reviewing atmosphere, this album would get 100%. If I considered impact (both personal and general), this album would get 100%. If I examined the lyrics alone, I would be in danger of giving another 100%. Lee Dorrian has always written fascinating lyrics, but does anything really sum up the early 90s wave of doom bands like this: "Let me wander through buildings immense in their desolation. / At peace from your catastrophe, here with gargoyles as my friends." However, if I was interested in songwriting only, I would award 60%, perhaps lower. Something goes wrong in the planning of the songs here, maybe because the band already had so much power and darkness at their disposal that they didn't really know how to wield it, resulting in a couple of crushing doom epics that progress very little and lose attention. In my view, Cathedral would be guilty of doing this more than once in their career: despite their prodigious creativity in some aspects of their sound, they recycled riffs and had a certain stagnation of guitar rhythms that made them sound clunky and oddly familiar.

This album naturally didn't have any other Cathedral album to draw riffs from, though a lot of the early legwork had been done by Black Sabbath, Pentagram, Trouble, and Saint Vitus, from whom Cathedral's basic sound is drawn. The band's progression of that sound was merely to take doom and make it doomier, slowing the pace to a tortured crawl, downtuning the guitars to molten slabs of lead, and infecting the atmosphere with a sense of nastiness and unease that fills the listener with foreboding. The guitar tone is so special on 'Forest of Equilibrium' not just because it is tuned low, but because the compression and thickness of such a huge sound is maintained by the recording. The quickly-emerging doom death bands like Paradise Lost and My Dying Bride downtuned to the same point, yet their guitars sounded rough and carved from stone and - while still capable of crushing bone and setting the doomy atmosphere - they didn't have that all-important quality of raising the hairs on the back of your neck and of making you feel something move in your stomach. Thus, even with some weak riffs, the songs all sound huge and devastating, such as the opening 'Comiserating the Celebration', the opening minute of which is all chords and sustained notes and still sounds immense.

The songs that do have great riffs sound astonishing. 'Ebony Tears' remains one of the most punishing doom songs ever and the chorus riff has a wicked sense of momentum even at crawling pace, while 'A Funeral Request' branches out and plays its second half at mid-pace, with some nice invention with acoustic guitars and dynamic soloing. The solos are admittedly a little odd for an album like this, since Gaz Jennings plays some conventional rock solos in these crushingly heavy songs, which give the album some extra groove and pace, though don't quite suit the atmosphere, barring the one at the end of 'Soul Sacrifice', which zips off that freak track's fast pace (it's the odd one out here) and really burns a hole through the last 10 seconds. My personal highlight must be 'Equilibrium', the opening riff of which is a pure ejaculation of doom brilliance that will make both your mouth and your sphincter open if you listen to it at high volume, not to mention the creepy closing section that proves we are lost in the forest, where the closing song's wandering flute leads us further astray.

In the end, it's these little touches like the flute and the acoustic guitars and the organ that plays us out that ensure 'Forest of Equilibrium' has more to recommend it than just a legacy of heaviness. The general performance of the band is adequate, with nothing outstanding happening in the rhythm department, and only the ballast of the guitars really hooking the listener in. Lee Dorrian is another story and ties everything together with a bizarre vocal performance that gets the mood just right. He doesn't sound classic like Ozzy or Bobby Liebling, he doesn't use a death growl, and he certainly doesn't take the Candlemass route; instead his voice is menacing enough to sound vaguely inhuman and threatening, but also recognisable as a voice, bringing a quality of madness and spontaneity to slowly-progressing songs. There's no one else who sounds like him and no other album that sounds exactly like 'Forest of Equilibrium' - neither its faults nor its brilliance.

Raw - 95%

JediSpam, April 15th, 2015

What we have here is a quintessential album of stoner/doom from the early 1990s. This is what paved the way for Cathedral in terms of popularity and poised them for expanding into some different genres. The artwork by Dave Patchett may very well be my favorite so far in the genre. The double sided LP artwork is magical and displays a split in dark and light. It's super unique and wish I could purchase a portrait of it for my office!

Onto the music, the best two words that describe this album are raw and unique. I have a feeling that Lee Dorrian's vocals are going to be love or hate for most people but I definitely love them. You're not going to find another vocalist like him when it comes to his approach and delivery. Raspy/deep with some really strange word annunciations. A nice touch to this album is the flute playing by Helen Acreman. The intro piece is really awesome and sets the stage well for the groovy doom riffs. Other flute pieces are peppered throughout the rest of the LP in all the right places as well as some organ playing. Guitar rhythm and lead riffs complement each other perfectly in both the distorted and clean presence. The production isn't great but I think this is one of those records where it's appropriate for it not to be with what they were trying to achieve. It's an important element of the raw sound that comes from this LP. Unprocessed, unrefined, crude doom metal.

Lyrics are strong in the mythological department and pair so well with the artwork. It's almost like they narrate the transcendental scene before you. You feel submerged in a dark forest with all the strange creatures on the cover. I have to say that the Picture of Beauty & Innocence is my favorite because it has all the elements that make this album so unique and raw at the same time as well as super groovy rhythm riffs. It is definitely a themed album and holds to conformity while still making a solid distinction between all the songs.

You definitely hear the Black Sabbath influence in this LP with some blues inspired lead parts and solos. This is an album I feel that any stoner/doom fan can appreciate regardless of what wave they are more inclined to. It's similar to the first wave and essentially sets the stage for the second. This album honestly will put you in a doom trance as long as you can handle it. I will find myself listening to this LP multiple times and it feeling completely natural and not tiresome. Great album for a few cold beers in a dark room on a weekend.

The only pleasure is pain - 100%

mad_submarine, September 13th, 2013

The record which stands in front of your eyes is situated somewhere in time where it puts a border between heavy music from the old days and heavy music from recent times, so to say. “Forest of Equilibrium” is colossal. In the hall of my favourite doom records, somewhere in the Garden of Unearthy doom, it sits on its own throne of triumph and monumental epicness. It is the best thing Cathedral ever put out. There are so many great albums from the masters of the genre, which have to be explored and cherished, but after all only “one will rule them all”.

Just to start with, no one sounded as heavy as Cathedral back in the day. I still haven’t found a band before ’91 to encompass the deep pain exposed in “Forest of Equilibrium” and the lead heavy guitar sound. Now when I think about it several Swedish death metal demos pop up into my head, but they are neither so accomplished, neither equal in musical completeness and perfection, so off the list for now. Even now in 2013, so many years after its release, personally I don’t think that Cathedral’s debut is matched. While in the 80s it was more about who would have more extremely fast guitar solos, bands like Cathedral helped switch positions, at least for the few extremists who were interested in doing so. Sure, there are the tons of funeral doom bands and Southern sludgerers today, but the ones who opened the gate were Cathedral. There are amazing masterpieces of slowness versus doom that followed ever since – for example in the face of Thergothon’s “Stream from the Heavens” or Disembowelment’s “ Transcendence into the Peripheral”, but Lee Dorrian and company were the first ones to step into the unknown.

In the bands’ own words, it all started like the project of a few enthusiasts into Saint Vitus/Pentagram/Black Sabbath who were not even from the same town. I can imagine how unpopular doom must have been back then, it was probably a miracle to meet someone with your tastes. As Lee didn’t see himself continuing his career in Napalm Death, it seems quite logical to try to create something of your own that would also suit your musical preferences better if you have the chance to. With the help of young Gary Jennings and Adam Lehan, previously from UK thrashers Acid Reign, Mark Griffiths and Mike Smail (later in Penance) “Forest of Equilibrium” happens to be a one time masterpiece of unearthy doom.

I think that what is best about this album is the atmosphere it creates. Beginning with the glorious artwork of Dave Pitchett, it encompasses a lot from the world of feelings. It's a fact that speaks well for itself that the band has used the dark part of the whole Pitchett painting to represent their music. If you pay close attention to the original whole picture you can see that it's divided in two - a good and a bad side, one where everything is serene and problems far. The dancing women are contrasted by the much darker half where the horizon is engulfed by the evil and ugly. Like always in real art, the emotions and current situation of the psyche of the creator reflects proportionally the final result so you can judge for yourself how the guys must have felt for some aspects of their life.

"Picture of beauty and innocence" is the most beautiful intro in the world. It's like the sweetest, pristine notes have joined together to form a song. Not later enough, the opener riff enters in to shadow over the comfort of the few seconds. Lee's voice comes in the likes of an ancient caveman awaken from a deep slumber. There are so many riffs and groove in "Commiserating the celebration", so many changes and moods all of which seems like an impossible mission to put into just one single song. It's easily one of my favourite tracks on this album and one of my favourites of all time. It sure as hell is not a song you play to your friends at a party. Well, not that any of the music I listen to is good for a party. You have to sit somewhere by yourself and focus on the music or otherwise it won't really catch you.

When I once argued with a friend about the length of a book we reached the conclusion that the book was not too long - it was just not for everyone since it is very slow-paced and detailed. So is our jewellery here. The best about the world of doom is contained in track two, the extraterrestrial "Ebony tears". This second song is about a love that should not be. All of the music is slow and wretched like a love story that should have come to an end. You can see on its video two people slowly touching hands and then Lee entering the scene to cut their love. So epic, I have watched this until forever. Also the rusty down-ridden guitar at around 5:10 is just the best in the world. I can't provide more detail with music, you gotta check for yourself.

Most music on here is rather slow paced, but there is one upbeat track that probably stands out in this sense, it's "Soul Sacrifice", which gets unusually fast for a Cathedral song in this album. Mark Griffiths lyrics are an absolute slayer here, it's again something like love versus misunderstanding done in the best way possible:

"I'll pour scorn from the lowest place,
Colour fades from your face,
Paradox of self existence"

No cheating here, there are no "highlight" tracks nor do I have favourite tracks on this album. Everything is complete genius. But then again there are riffs like in the beginning of "A funeral request" that make me lay on the ground and put a box on my head and repeat it over and over again in my headphones. What did you do to me impossible band, changed all my music perceptions until foreverhell? If you really fall inlove with music like this, all your perceptions change. You will kind of learn to love the dark. If you didn't already. "A funeral request" also opened the road for other doom bands to use funeral concepts - introducing beauty to the grave. Not that British weren't the best poets already, but the lyrics of the song beat most stuff I've read anyhow.

"Serpents marked with azure rings
cathedrals where rich shadows fall,
things strange curious solemn saviour.
You promised me laughter in autumn days,
now I can't awake from this lucid haze. "

The catchiest riff on "The forest.." belongs to "Equilibrium" and I was about to say "and the best solo" when I reminded myself that I am talking about THIS album and every solo is the best. Seriously, if there is ever a doom metal fan in the universe who has not listened to "Equilibrium", go go go. The flute is probably the most mesmerising instrument along with the guitar and "Reaching happiness, touching pain" proves that. Lee's voice is extraordinarily melancholic here, even for Cathedralesque standards. On overall, this opus of deepest sorrows and best music ideas put together ends just like it began, wrapped up in grey.

Maybe I should leave this with a quote from a favourite poem: "A God I did not have, so you I worshipped".

Godlike - 100%

TheEndIsNigh, August 27th, 2012

The word above this review accurately describes Cathedral's notorious 1991 debut album 'Forest of Equilibrium.' This lengthy, snail-paced, dirt swathed, monolithic masterpiece is a major acheivement in underground metal. It's release sparked this band's amazing two decade career and a second wave of doom metal that was slower, darker, and way more heavier.

Before this, metal in the UK was dominated by death metal, thrash, and the newly created lightspeed style, grindcore. Doom metal was an American movement that had a status of microscopic, with bands like Pentagram (who were celebrating a revival), and Saint Vitus (who were reaching the end of their life cycle). In the UK, doom metal was probably known to about ten people. But, that would all change thanks to this all-out massacre of mind-altering sounds and emotion-affecting lyrics.

At the time of it's release, 'Forest of Equilibrium' was groundbreaking for it's use of slow death-like tempos, down-tuned guitars, and growling vocals, that had slight echoes of death metal. To this day, there have rarely been anything this genius. Sure, there are other classics of the genre, such as Pentagram's 'Be Forewarned,' Winter's 'Into Darkness,' Sleep's 'Sleep's Holy Mountain,' and Saint Vitus's standard setting 'Born Too Late.' But this album was the hand that shot forth from the grave, leading a revolution of second wave bands slower then ever before, helping give birth to sub-genres like funeral doom and death-doom.

The album's folk tendencies shine on the first track with delicate acoustic guitar and some smooth flute. Then, slowly, like the undead rising in the morgue, the riff comes in, slow and sludgy. It's an excellent intro to what the whole album is like. Lee Dorrian's vocals are so fitting to the songs, it's kinda scary. The musicianship is phenomenal for something so slow. Styles like death metal and thrash are based on technicality while the slower bands are based off feeling and emotion. And this release takes advantage of that with fierce precision. Gaz Jennings and Adam Lehan's guitar lines are injected with such pain and yearning that the songs seem to just scream like tortured souls. I honestly can't remember the last time an album did this to it's listeners. And with Mike Smail's excellent drum lines and fills, it all comes together for an experience unlike any other.

Cathedral's debut has only one rival, and that's Black Sabbath's eponymous debut album. Both are slow, heavy, and inspired generations of bands to come forth with their own down-tuned, slow variations on the blueprints Sabbath laid down 42 years ago. Cathedral's take shot it into the stratosphere, taking it to new heights (or depths) and shocking and surprising listeners all over again.

Active Nihilism Achieved Through Doom - 95%

hippie_holocaust, November 8th, 2011

Sometimes you know you’re going to like an album before you ever even hear it. Cathedral’s Forest of Equilibrium just seemed to have an unquestionable gravity about it; I needed this. So, knowing that I would never find a copy anywhere in my non-metallic town, I took to the interweb, and days later began a bleak and damnable journey to the depths of a painfully nihilistic abyss. Doomseekers, beware, this opus is truly ‘heavy,’ in the archaic sense of the word. The stark sense of misanthropy and self-loathing expressed herein is quite palpable just in the sheer weight of the down-tuned and drear guitars, and the creeping and desolate drums, coloured wonderfully with cascading fills and an oddly bright snare.

Young Lee Dorrian finds himself in a state of rebirth, having washed his hands of the speed-obsessed wankery of grindcore, and moves forward with his passion for `eavy metal with some like-minded blokes who’ve a penchant for the grim riffage of the ancient doomsters. After getting his start as a grind front man performing the frenzied hoarse barking required for eighty second bursts of songs, Dorrian re-introduces himself to the world with clear vision as a leather-lung priest of damnation.

“Picture of Beauty and Innocence,” the delicate acoustic introduction to “Commiserating the Celebration,” is just that, a brief glimmer of hope beckoning the listener to enter the veiled realm of this dark and weepy forest. What strange creatures lurk within? Are the wood-elves cool with uninvited humans? The answer is yes, and they have plenty of longbottom leaf to go around. So fill your pipe and light up, and prepare to embark upon a grandiose yet dismal adventure.

The musicians are united in their intent to make you feel the weight of their sorrow; their catharsis makes for a stifling heaviness that will clear the room of any fan of popular culture, so you can “Commiserate the Celebration” of your estrangement from a mundane and sterile world. Forest of Equilibrium is a just reward for those who refuse to be spoon fed the meaninglessness of decadent societal machines fueled by greed and insincerity. If you regularly watch television, vote, or comb your hair, for instance, you will not like this. Songs like “Ebony Tears” and the abysmal “Serpent Eve” are monumental crushers that make Cathedral’s isolation abundantly, morbidly clear.

“Soul Sacrifice” is rich in heavy metal swagger, opening with a glowing riff of tumbling hammer-ons. This is the album’s only exercise in brevity and serves as a sort of intermission to the leaden mammoths that comprise the bulk of FoE. This song is appropriately followed by the Cyclopean obelisk “A Funeral Request,” a lumbering Sabbathian juggernaut that is the quintessence of infernal doom metal. The guitar tone here is so thick and juicy you can actually taste the hatred. It may well be that the desired effect of this music is to liberate through a mutual disdain for conventionality.

The title track plunges you into a dark, dank cosmos of weirdness. Dorrian’s otherworldly voice is the perfect match for this sullen symphony, with its spiraling motifs creating a feeling of buoyancy in a gurgling sea of discontent. “Reaching Happiness, Touching Pain” is one of the most aptly named works of doom ever conceived. The flute accompaniment at the beginning of the song lends an air of mystique to the gloom, as the instrumentalists plod along at their depressive craft. This multi-layered, massive piece builds like a late-afternoon thunderhead which culminates in a damning crescendo of majestically macabre pipe organ and distorted grandeur.

This album is required listening for metalheads who wish to delve to the vast underworld of an antiquated art form called doom. Through its minimalism we reach happiness. Through its undeniable nihilism, we touch the pain of its conception.

Reaching Hppiness, Touching Pain - 98%

embryo3012, July 7th, 2010

Cathedral was formed in 1989 by Lee Dorian, former vocalist of Napalm Death and "Forest of Equilibrium" is their debut album. It is a piece of art, that is considered by many as a doom classic.

"Forest of Equilibrium" is one of the heaviest and slowest metal albums ever recorded. Cathedral have filtered their influences from Black Sabbath, Saint Vitus, Pentagram and the other doom gods, through the death metal aesthetic of their times and created an album which is hard to listen, especially for the listeners who are not used to this kind of music. However this masterpiece is one of the most compulsive albums I have ever listened to.

The music style of the album is basically death - doom, with some mid tempo bursts and dressed with acoustic guitars, flutes and synthesizers. These instruments paint this acoustic experience and fit perfectly with the slow, depressive music. But Forest of Equilibrium stands out for its unique atmosphere. Extremely grotesque and melancholic, yet capturing and beautiful. This atmosphere is not only the result of the flutes and the acoustic guitars, but of the production as well. "Rotten" and dark, makes the guitars and especially the drums sound magnificent. I should also mention that the drumming in this record is one of its highlights.The songs are long and slow except for "Soul Sacrifice" a mid - tempo hymn and the grooviest song of the album, which also contains some crazy guitar solos. The monotony of the other monolithic songs is broken by some groovy riffs, that draw the listener's attention and keep his interest irreducible.

Although Cathedral didn't keep the death - doom style of this album, including the vocals, I believe that Lee Dorian's vocals in "Forest of Equilibrium" are by far the best of his career and responsible for making this album so unique and different than any other album. Very expressive and haunting, Dorian's voice balances somewhere between clean and harsh.

The hazy, draggy and slumbering riffing, and the gloomy atmosphere that devour any feeling of hope and joy, are completed perfectly with the amazing lyrics. Dark, melancholic, even romantic sometimes, drowns the listener into a swamp of despair. Finally, I have to mention the artwork of the album, created by Dave Patchett, which is one of the greatest of all time in metal history!

In conclusion, "Forest of Equilibrium" is a true jewel. A trip into this one is capable of creating unique emotions to the listener. In my opinion, Cathedral have managed to express the pain, depression and melancholy and captivate them in a disc and that's the reason why this album is the perfect soundtrack for your most pessimistic moments. Absolutely essential.

The long face of cheerlessness - 58%

autothrall, May 13th, 2010

...and there it stood. An inch thick in dust, just to the left on my CD shelf, in the 'no fly zone' where I generally put albums that are best left forgiven and forgotten. A copy of Cathedral's 1991 debut, Forest of Equilibrium, which has been listened to approximately five or six times in memory, yet I've still failed to penetrate it's harrowing depths with anything more than an obligatory curiosity. The cover art, like most of their other releases, truly grandiose in its morbid psychedelia. The contents...well, let's say I'm feeling a streak of masochism today, so I will once again dare its secrets, to overcome the stagnant neutrality I so lavish upon it.

First, let me qualify that I am not some hater of Cathedral, and in fact I very much enjoy their more upbeat recordings like The Ethereal Mirror or The Carnival Bizarre. There's something to the charm of Lee Dorrian's odd voice, the tuning and tone of Gaz Jenning's guitar, and the fantastickal trips they offer to guide you through by the hand. Cathedral seems like the mad experiment of some deranged Dungeon Master, pumping psychotropic pheromones out through his pores that create a haze of reality blurring dementia. To that extent ,this Forest of Equilibrium, in all of its sodden non-glory, does match up well with the remainder of the band's catalog. But half the tracks are so damned lethargic on this release that they fail utterly to grasp the matter of my memory.

Yes, a laconic pacing is to be expected from this or almost any other release in the doom category, and Cathedral attempt to compensate with Dorrian's most eerie vocal performance. Tracks like "Serpent Eve" really benefits from his endless well of character, and he's a more than adequate narrator for the bad trip this music coughs up. Subtle touches of choir, melodic twining guitars and a staggering, if tortured momentum assist the listener in surviving the experience. "Soul Sacrifice", in which Dorrian channels multiple demonic personalities, and the riffs of Gaz do more than lilt along helplessly, is a fun number which would have felt right at home on one of this band's more exciting efforts. The wind instruments that herald "Reaching Happiness, Touching Pain" lead forth into one of the record's more effective, slow burns, corrupting 70s nostalgia by way of the band's moribund British minds. The album is clearly not without its moments.

But there lies the problem I still have here. Moments. The few that thrill me on this record do not tally upwards of 15-20, never mind the 54 that comprise its total manifestation. So much of this album is poisoned by dull, plodding drum rhythms and fragmentary Sabbath riffs that sound like no more than 20-30 seconds were placed into their planning. About as much time as it took Gaz to plug the damn amp in, is exactly how much time it takes even the most cursory six stringer to tear out a generic, neo-blues burn of this nature. There are precisely 4 riffs on this entire album that I found the will to acknowledge on any level beyond 'when will it end?'. As a result, the mind starts to search for anything to indulge it, and thus the crazed vocals, strings and other elements seem deceptively bolder. I'm no enemy of doom metal, in fact I'm rather fond of a few of its practicing physicians, but it's important to note that doom does NOT have to equal dull, nor does slow always equal heavy, and much of the guitar work and passive drumming here really feels like such a waste of space, even when the mood fits. Lost Paradise made me feel quite doomed. That album frightened me with its penitence and despair. This has had more of a My Dying Bride effect on me. That is to say, almost no effect at all.

Some purists would praise this album more highly than anything the band could later muster, but I seriously don't see how this equates to anything more than a minimal amount of effort. For the same reason I dislike a great number of hack funeral doom records, I found my sanity slowly reeling towards an escape as I was plumbing these depths for the last time. Forest of Equilibrium does not really suck. Dorrian sees to that with ample gloom...just enough of it to wash this record clean of total monotony. It just sucks on its own heedless ballast, and I'm sure the band must have felt a similar reaction, judging from the more amped up rocking nostalgia the band would spew forth on its subsequent releases. This album might celebrate a cult status due to the pair of decades its sat around, but I'm afraid my copy will be returning to the dust of neglect.


sorry guys, it just isn't for me - 68%

stonetotem, May 7th, 2009

I hate to write negative reviews, and I basically refuse to address something I'd give below a 70% because outright bashing things isn't much fun. I especially hate to be the one who steps in on a generally beloved album and deems it "overrated". But really in all honesty I just can't enjoyably listen through this whole album. I'm a big fan of doom metal, and bands such as Saint Vitus and Pentagram that influenced these guys are truly great. And there are elements of this album I enjoy, but they're constantly overshadowed by annoyances and unacceptable aspects of the music.

Cathedral are generally hailed as the very first or at least one of the most important and influential bands in the so-called second wave of doom metal. Their style borrows heavily from Black Sabbath and 80s classics such as Saint Vitus, Pentagram and Trouble, and they don't try to hide the fact that this band is almost intended to commemorate them. While they wear their influences on their sleeve, they also try to enhance and further aspects of some of the doomiest bands around at the time. They play low, rung out, heavy chords and they most often play at a sluggish extremely slow tempo. But their style doesn't stray too far from it's traditional doom roots and never embraces death metal like so many bands of the "second wave" did.

One of my main problems with this album is the seeming lack of substance in the riffs and sound in general. Sure, they play a heavier slower version of doom metal greats in a lot of ways, but many of the riffs they write are very generic, almost tediously so. While some sections of the album will just be crushingly heavy in a very enjoyable way, many of the riffs will sour that enjoyment completely. It would seem to be an indictment of doom metal in general to attack a band for repetitively using simplistic riffs, but when they're tinged with lame little bends, annoyingly generic leads, chugging on chords that don't sound particularly dark or ominous at all, really the criticism seems justified. So much of this album just screams "generic metal, people who buy albums from Century Media and Relapse check this out!" And that seems like an unfair criticism as well to attack something just for being generally more popular, accessible and liked. But in all honesty, and I don't wanna sound like an elitist prick or anything, things like Cathedral and those oodles of popular well-liked accessible metal bands truly are generic, lame and just not what I look for in metal. I want filthy, disgusting shit, mucky production, dark and ominous riffs, and when leads are used I don't want a lame blues scale, I want something bizarre that you won't hear inside of mainstream music. I hate to be this guy and I sure do sound like a douche, but Cathedral fit in perfectly with what I'm describing.

But it's not all bad news. For a band that fits in with that scathing description Cathedral can still deliver some impressively heavy riffs and here and there some great and very noteworthy doom metal. Still, those nastier aspects keep piling up. Lee Dorrian's vocals just aren't my cup of tea. Death metal grunts would have worked just perfectly for this album and could have saved it some respects. Instead he chooses to use a hybrid between sort of grunting and rhaspy parts with clean vocals and sort of strange delivery. That doesn't sound so bad, but it's a little too lame and over the top, and just adds to my frustration with the piles of negative qualities stacked around some good riffs and memorable parts on this album. The drums I have no problem with, they plod along with the slow rhythms and deliver some interesting fills here and there, and the recording on them sounds just fine. The bass is not particularly audible behind the distortion but I'm sure adds to the heavy tone of the music. Also of note are the few acoustic parts that work well with the more plodding and darker parts.

For an album that's generally hailed as dark, heavy, sluggish and the first true representation of the "second wave" of doom metal, I have quite a list of complaints for it. I really don't believe the tone is so dark, and really I think its generic qualities and annoying aspects overshadow the good mucky heavy parts to the extent that I can't listen to this album and enjoy it much at all. Really I was so excited as Comiserating the Celebration began with a disgustingly sluggish riff, but as the album wore on I realized their style is just not what I was hoping for. In my opinion doom metal is capable of so much more, and the early 90s era of doom metal is perhaps the greatest of the genre's roughly thirty year existence. Cathedral just do not deliver the goods. I've checked this album out a few times over the past three or four years, since I've been really into doom metal, and my most recent listen was a big wakeup call. There is so much better, more filthy and sluggish demented doom available from this era. But if that's not what you're looking for, maybe this is.

Earthy, rich and enrapturing... - 99%

balbulus, July 13th, 2008

In days long past (1992), when I first bought this album (assuming it to be death metal since it was on Earache), I was shocked; I had never heard anything so painfully slow. I had heard of 'doom metal', but assumed it was just another term for death metal. Yet, over the next week or so the album began to grow on me, and before long it had me completely under its spell. The dark esoteric atmosphere, the richly symbolic and poetic lyrics, the haunting touches of acoustic instruments, all showed me what more could be achieved with heavy music than just brutality and speed. It proved to be the founding point of my more experimental music tastes over the years.

Many people view this album as desolate or monochrome; I, however, find it extremely rich and colourful. The effect of the album as a whole is similar to that of walking through an old churchyard in the countryside: a sense of immense age and sadness, underlaid with an organic, almost pagan earthiness that is quite enrapturing.

The guitars are tuned way, way down (to B I believe), and the tone is thick, dark and rounded, like the age-worn stones of some colossal ruined edifice. I have always thought that perhaps they could have a touch more bite, but I don't know if this would ruin the aged atmosphere of the album. It would be interesting to hear a remastered version. The music is comprised of subtly twisted Sabbath-inspired riffs played at a much slower pace to emphasise the crushing impact, overlaid here and there with sinister harmonies that at times sound almost atonal. The effect is a dark, unsettled dream-like atmosphere, almost psychedelic in places, but not in the 'groovy' way that Cathedral would later adopt. The only hint of this later style is in the up-tempo track 'Soul Sacrifice', but even this does not detract from the dark atmosphere of the album. The only other up-tempo moment is the fantastically heavy mid section of 'A Funeral Request'.

At various points throughout the album are subtle touches of acoustic guitar and flute which add an earthy, prog/folk element to the music, but not in an overt manner. In addition, the end section of closing track 'Reaching Happiness, Touching Pain' features a Hammer-esque church organ, which ends the album with an air of demonically possessed triumph.

Mike Smail from Penance provided the drums for this album, and his relatively busy style tends to incorporate a lot of fills and syncopations, rather than just sticking to a sparse doom beat like the majority of extreme doom drummers. This helps to keep the slow pace of the music from becoming too stark and monotonous.

As for the vocals, Lee Dorrian's voice lies somewhere between a low mournful groan and a deep death growl, making easy classification difficult: this is certainly more extreme than most run-of-the-mill doom bands, and yet it doesn't quite fit within the doom/death spectrum. However, the influence this album had on that genre is immense. I do tend to class this album as 'doom/death'.

The lyrics are beautifully poetic, ranging from the gothic romanticism of 'A Funeral Request' ("White rose perfume / go with thee on thy way / unto thy shady tomb / low music doth fall / lightly as autumn leaves / about thy solemn pall / faint incense rises"), via the crushing idolatrous menace of 'Serpent Eve' ("Gather to the Lords of facade / Kneel beneath the cross of false / Crawl to the figure speared / Wither within its name"), to the philosophically symbolic 'Equilibrium' ("Lost in the battlefield of opposite extremes / I ponder on the embankment that stands inbetween / the monochrome and colour, entirity I see / the beauty and Chaos of Fate and Destiny").

The cover art (painted by Dave Patchett) perfectly captures the feeling of the album, a Bosch-inspired scene from some unsettled dream with strange disproportionate figures engaging in various revelries. It is the sort of image in which you can discover something new upon each viewing.

'Forest Of Equilibrium' totally changed my life. The follow up, 'The Ethereal Mirror', changed my life once again: its change of direction shattered me totally, and left me feeling disillusioned. I started searching for bands that held the same feeling contained within 'Forest of Equilibrium', and whilst I discovered some great doom bands, none came close to the magical formula. Solitude Aeturnus and Revelation weren't as heavy; Winter, Funeral and Thergothon were too bleak; MDB and Anathema were too romantic/gothic; Sleep and Electric Wizard too stoner. The closest I have found in the years that have passed are the 3 tracks from pre-Electric Wizard outfit Thy Grief Eternal, but even this lacks a lot of the feeling I am searching for, sounding more akin to the less developed sound of Cathedral's 'In Memoriam' demo. The only conclusion I can draw is that 'Forest Of Equilibrium' is one of a kind, a unique entity that will never be paralleled, a world that exists in its own space, and any search for something similar is ultimately fruitless.

The only option is to turn around and head back into the Forest, to lose yourself in its hidden depths, and to wonder upon its meaning.

Guys, There’s Some Lentils on the Floor - 92%

Acrobat, May 25th, 2008

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!


A great album that promises a lot - 93%

NausikaDalazBlindaz, November 7th, 2007

This album has held up well since I bought it way back in 1992 and I'm not surprised that after all this time and several albums later a lot of people still regard "Forest of Equilibrium" as Cathedral's best album. I recall that at the time it was made the band's line-up was not at all stable with the drummer being on loan from another band I think and the bass player leaving between this recording and the next Cathedral album which makes the achievement all the more remarkable. Being Cathedral's debut, the main aim of "Forest ..." is to establish the band's style of doom metal which here is strongly riff-based and minimalist to some extent while also being very melodic and even accessible to a more mainstream audience (or alternative mainstream audience if you like) - as well as distance vocalist Lee Dorrian from his previous band Napalm Death both musically and lyrically. The last time I heard this recording before listening to it again for reviewing purposes must have been more than five years ago at least yet tunes from songs like "Ebony Tears", "Serpent Eve" and "Comiserating the Celebration" are still strongly etched if not burned into my tiny brain cells which is good evidence of the staying power of the minimalist doom metal template that emphasises a deep bass-heavy rhythm, some melody (but not to the extent that it overpowers the rhythm) and some attention to the sound of the doom metal guitar tone and texture and its interplay with the space between tones. This is a template that many bands have mined for all it's worth and which even Cathedral have returned to when the guys feel themselves in danger of losing their particular plot.

A gentle acoustic folk melody at the start quickly leads into the saturnine "Comiserating the Celebration" - yeah, the title and lyrics are contradictory (happiness and pleasure are to be found by wallowing in misery and misfortune? - sounds like a good idea!) - but the music which mirrors this paradox (solemn enough but moving fairly quickly and not dragging on even at its slowest) is the main strength. It's actually at its best while Dorrian is singing the first two verses: it's purely functional with a thick and crusty raw texture and gives the impression that the musicians get their guitar spare parts from a motorcycle factory outlet. This being the early 1990s, we do have the obligatory lead guitar break from Gary Jennings which leads into a brief period of drawn-out droning doom metal glory before the weepy coda - ahhh, if only Cathedral had thought at the time to follow this particular direction that would be taken up by Earth and Sunn0))) instead of their particular retro-'70s worship ... oh well.

"Ebony Tears" is another great exercise in slow melodic droning doom: strong repetitive riffs that drive the song and which are full of the pain and sadness of existence are the big highlight here. You really notice the band's distinctive sound which is thick, muscular and raw and which seems to convey a quality that seems to me peculiarly English. But just when you think Cathedral couldn't get any more doleful than on "Ebony Tears", out comes the majestic trundling monster "Serpent Eve" whose every drone-heavy riff bleeds with thick rough sonic lava. The drumming can sound out of kilter with the magma-like music but it seems to reinforce the fantasy quality of the song and additional Gothic horror is added by the lyrics and the coda of gabbling demon voices. On the subject of Gothic horror, you'd think the following song "Soul Sacrifice" would take up that idea with a vengeance but the piece actually turns out to be the most radio-friendly / singles-oriented track on the album with initial motorcycle chug-a-lug rhythms turning into outright rock boogie and Lee Dorrian having something akin to orgasmic thrills and spills as the song carries on.

"A Funeral Request (Ethereal Architect)" restores the proper doomy Black Sabbath side with slow and repetitive riffs. The sound can be heavy and crunchy without being crushing and the music is fairly loose, changing pace easily from medium-slow to fast to snail's pace. After this marathon piece the next two tracks are rather like footnotes: they are still slow and sombre but the riffs and melodies seem less distinctive. The last track in particular seems a heavy-handed and self-indulgent wallow in misery even with the addition of flute and acoustic guitar to add a lighter folk-like character.

I don't think the kind of production used here is a big deal - in the early 1990s before black metal spread out of Norway, the kind of atmosphere that would have suited an album such as this was probably not considered a major issue - but the album does have a clean and spacey ambience which suits the thick texture of the music and the occasional organ passages in a couple of tracks.

In contrast with later Cathedral recordings there is not much evidence of 1970s prog rock here; there's actually more of an English late 60s / early 70s folk vibe throughout this album which suggests an alternative direction Cathedral could have pursued. I'm thinking of something along the lines of the early 70s English folk band Comus whose music, at least on their first album "First Utterance", featured rape, murder, a lynching and derangement by electro-shock therapy, and whose song "Drip Drip" supplied the Swedish BM group Opeth inspiration for an album title with the line: "... as I carry you to your grave, my arms your hearse ..."; and of the soundtrack to the original "The Wicker Man" movie which featured Christopher Lee wearing silly wigs and eye candy lady Britt Ekland. It's a pity in a way that Cathedral chose to go in a more kitschy retro-70s direction and wasted that magnificent sound of theirs while other bands picked up the minimalist droning doom metal idea with its potential for creating really trancey droning music; I'm sure there is still an opening for an British doom metal band like Cathedral to pick up the idea of combining doom metal with evil English or Scottish folk music and folklore and running off with it. I know the band did flirt briefly with a bit of English folklore and history later when they did the song "Hopkins" but this was pretty much a homage to the UK band Witchfinder General that was based as much on the movie about the infamous 17th century self-styled witchfinder general Matthew Hopkins that starred Vincent Price as on the actual man himself.

The album cover of "Forest of Equilibrium", in which identical twin messengers stride into two opposed fantasy worlds, one innocent and full of light, the other featuring darkness, corruption and perversion, again emphasises a folk-oriented ambience and suggests Cathedral could have incorporated a dual or polar-opposites approach to their music and lyrics: doom metal / folk as both dark and light.

Overall this album is a great one which promised a lot from Cathedral but ultimately it's the musicians' prerogative to do what they see fit with their music.

The birth of doom-death - 98%

morbert, October 11th, 2007

We’ve always had some doom in the scene, starting in the seventies with the mighty Sabbath and of course Trouble, Saint Vitus and Candlemass in the eighties. But this album, together with early Paradise Lost realized the birth of doom-death and (and later on funeral-doom metal) in its purest form. Cathedral however were much slower on their debut than Paradise Lost have ever been and since then started decaying in terms of originality and doomyness. With each following album they started sounding more and more like Sabbath and Lee Dorian learned how to sing later on.

On this first album Dorian still had some of his Napalm Death days grunting left in him, resulting in a vocal style balancing between death grunts and extremely melancholic whining. This perfectly suited the song material which was almost of a nihilistic simplicity.

The songs were long but for some reason contained just enough variation to keep the album extremely interesting from start to finish. ‘Ebony Tears’ was the video song and one of the most catchy ones on the album. The short grooving hippie song ‘Soul Sacrifice’ was an omen of the style they’d play on later albums.

The intro ‘Picture of Beauty & Innocence’ on some other non-metal sections are happy laid back tunes that for some reason fit the album due to the extreme contrast with the heavy doom metal. This album is so depressing it always cheers me up! Is that difficult to understand? Well, it’s the truth. I always feel quite happy every time I’ve listened to this album.

Not only is this album a milestone in the history of doom-death but also the individual songs are of high quality and the album has withstood time with ease. A must-have release.

Doom's Second Wave Begins Here - 90%

brocashelm, April 20th, 2006

It’s twilight in the woods. The fading light brings shadows, and with them eerie shapes seem to emerge out of the foliage itself. Indistinct but definitely present are the obscure denizens of the wood who gather joylessly to celebrate arcane pagan rites of fornication and delirium. After six separate ceremonies pass, the light of a new day begins to illuminate the heavens. And in its glare, the specters recede solemnly to their daytime hibernation, only to slither forth again when the moon arrives to oversee their pagan reveries.

That is the mood of Cathedral’s debut album as heard through my view, and a more somber and beaten sounding release had simply never been crafted in metal upon its release. Listeners familiar with Lee Dorrian’s vocal work with Napalm Death were perhaps horrified to hear his signature growl compressed to a creepy bellow, and the hyper-speed grind replaced by slow-motion doom of the most severe order. Credit is also due guitarist Gary Jennings, whose worship of all rock things obscure informs the riffs and lines that pour off his fingers. Song wise “Commiserating the Celebration” is the monster here, 11 minutes of SLOW unfolding dour feeling. An acoustic intro gives slight respite, but after that, it’s a slow march to melancholy. In the album’s original configuration there were NO up-tempo cuts, just six rituals of which “Equilibrium” and “Ebony Tears” are perhaps the standouts.

The sound is all midrange and quavering bottom end, with no bright spots of treble to offer a glimmer of sonic hope – Cathedral would go on to pen many more essays on the subject of doom and elder metal worship – but this starting point will always pack a dreadful power that stands alone. Seriously. Most doom sounds like comedy when put up against this.