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In twenty years time, how will our music seem? - 75%

Twisted_Psychology, July 29th, 2011

Originally formed by vocalist Lee Dorrian following his exit from the legendary Napalm Death, Cathedral has been one of the leading bands in the doom movement since Forest of Equilibrium came out in 1991. This particular release is noteworthy for not only being the band's first double album, but for also being the band's first studio effort since The Garden of Unearthly Delights came out in 2005.

Cathedral has always had fairly complex songwriting, but this may be their most progressive and experimental album to date. Influences from 1970s bands such as Genesis and King Crimson can be strongly felt as the song structures are as complex as ever and unorthodox instruments such as the mellotron and female vocals are used more often than in the past.

Fortunately, many of the band's signature elements have been retained and manage to go along with the changes and innovations quite nicely. Almost all of the songs on here are packed with upbeat tempos, pounding guitar riffs, a few slower moments, movie samples and spoken segments that give them atmosphere. It all results in what may be one of the band's lightest efforts though not one of their most accessible.

One thing that may really be a surprise to some listeners is Dorrian's vocal performance. Having started with a harsh growl that then turned into a raspy bark for some of the band's classics such as Hopkins (Witchfinder General), this album features a more melodic performance that frequently reminds one of Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson. Fortunately, the rest of the band also puts on some great performances with no member falling behind the others.

The songwriting is pretty well-rounded and mostly devoid of filler. Even the two minute interludes manage to earn their keep with Immaculate Misconception opening the first disc on a particularly nightmarish note and the title track bringing in some soft contrasts before conjuring the particularly heavy Edwige's Eyes.

Of course, there aren't too many songs on here that may qualify for a classic status. Funeral Of Dreams is the most interesting track due to its quiet but bouncy chorus and strangely effective transitions. Also worth noting are the rocking Painting In The Dark and The Casket Chasers, the psychedelic Ghost Ship Of The Blind Dead, and the dirge-like touches of The Running Man and Requiem For The Voiceless.

The lyrics also seem to have gone through some changes with society, organized religion, and escapism standing out as the most common themes. Fortunately there are some remnants of the band's old horror film fixation in the forms of Ghost Ship Of The Blind Dead and Edwige's Eyes, the latter of which seems to be a tribute to Italian actress Edwige Fenech.

Requiem For The Voiceless and Journey To Jade are two songs that stand out for having particularly interesting lyrics. The former is about the mistreatment of animals while the latter provides a look at the band's history while pondering how its music and our culture at large will be seen by future generations. They may be a little too direct for some listeners but they don't detract from the music very often.

In a way similar to Helloween's Keeper Of The Seven Keys: The Legacy, this is a release that might not have needed to be a double album. The ideal CD length is around 40-50 minutes but it still seems like overkill to have 85 minutes of music stretched over two discs. Especially since cutting a lesser track such as Journey To Jade or editing a few song lengths would've led to all the material fitting onto one disc...

But in terms of the music itself, this is a very well-done album that manages to prove Cathedral's relevancy after such a long gap between releases. Definitely worth recommending to fans of prog rock, doom metal, and the usual group of Cathedral die-hards.

Highlights:
Funeral Of Dreams, Painting In The Dark, Edwige's Eyes, Ghost Ship Of The Blind Dead, and Requiem For The Voiceless

Guess who's weird? That's right, Dorrian is! - 85%

Metantoine, June 18th, 2011

What we have here is the first double album of the famous British Doomsters Cathedral (if we can still call this Doom, hardly really). The band, even since its debut, always got some psychedelic/progressive influences, but it's really on this album that Dorrian, Jennings and co. totally embraced this sound and mixed it with their familiar one which apart from some albums (like Endtyme) didn't really deviate from the one from their amazing second record ''The Ethereal Mirror''. Basically, the sound of the album is a continuation of their precedent ''The Gardens of Unearthly Delights'' but mixed with a much more apparent psychedelic and groovy influence. Just listen to the intro of the album ''Immaculate Misconception'', there's an heavy organ sound, mixed with heavy guitars and ends with the cries of a baby, that's something to start an album. The weirdness doesn't go away, IT GETS weirder, the kind of rapped vocals of Lee during ''Funeral of Dreams'' were a total surprise for me, I remember not liking them at first, but the strong point of the album is that it's really a grower, much more than any album of their back catalog in my opinion.

Let's talk about the format. A double album is always something delicate (some will say pretentious) to achieve and most of the bands are failing at this project, even renowned and loved bands like Judas Priest. Talking about Priest and their album ''Nostradamus'', I consider ''The Guessing Game'' to be the same kind of album as it would have been way greater on only one cd. The album is only one hour and twenty four minutes, so I'm thinking that it's a bit pretentious or lazy to not edit the album or to remove a song from it to fit the 80 minutes. But what we lack in editing, we get in diversity, listen to ''Death Of An Anarchist'' and its awesome clean guitar intro, lush keyboards parts and the great bass lead at the end of the song. It's a trippy album but the new fully contained influences don't let the heavier side of Cathedral intact, it's a metal album for sure, but less hard (the second disk is heavier than the first though) than the previously mentioned ''Endtyme'' or even ''The VIIth Coming''. The influence of the prog scene from the 70's is apparent and I would had loved a complete progressive Cathedral version with the ''Tull'' and the ''Yes'' influences. In fact, this album is the nearest thing to this (I'll say that while waiting for their swansong album). The title song is actually a pretty great atmospheric interlude ''à la'' Gentle Giant. I must say this sound fits Dorrian vocal approach and his psychedelic lyrics (which is one of the things that's making Cathedral an essential band to me), verses like ''Flickering candles, midnight sky. Feline presence senses high'' on the last song of disk 1, ''Cats, Incence, Candles & Wine'' feels at their place on an album like this.

This album encapsulate the Cathedral identity, it's one of the reason I really like it. It's dark and mysterious like ''Forest of Equilibrium'' or ''Soul Sacrifice'' and it's trippy and modern like ''Supernatural Birth Machine''. We can feel the heritage of their British forefathers, like I said before. It's apparent in the drum roll starting ''One Dimensional People'' and some of the parts of ''a Noche Del Buque Maldito (Aka Ghost Ship Of The Blind Dead)'' that's the album is almost a tribute to the zombies drummers, I'm talking about Keith Moon and John Bonham or the living zombie, Bill Ward.

It's probably one of the weirdest album on Nuclear Blast. It's strange for me (apart from a distribution point of view) that the band isn't fully on Lee's label, Rise Above. It's really not an album to discover Cathedral, it's the strangest in their discography. Strange samples, long songs and progressive tendencies are all present. The only major letdown of the album for me is the last ten minutes song, it's a cool song musically as always with Gaz's riffs but its lyrics are totally autobiographic like the Megadeth's song ''Victory'' but everybody knows that Mustaine is a self absorbed born again Christian, so that wasn't a surprise. It's a bit pretentious of Dorrian to write a song about the history of his own band.

Finally, I consider this album one of the best of modern Cathedral, better than ''Gardens'' and its apple scent cd concept. ''The Guessing Game'' is truly a complete, conceptual and immersing album that flows together very well (the cd change is lame though). But, beware it's not a reconception of the band (so haters, don't bother) but more one of the final statements of this quartet and a vision of its heritage and identity, I'm really waiting for their latest album ''The Last Spire'' for the definitive statement of the band.

The Guessing Game - 49%

NativeMetal, August 26th, 2010

It has been about 20 years now since Lee Dorrian last grunted at the helm of Napalm Death. In those 20 years, the man’s career has changed almost as drastically as possible. Once he departed the grindcore legends, he decided to stop making one-minute blasts of power and move into the slow-moving doom business by releasing Cathedral‘s debut album, Forest of Equilibrium. The downtuned, crushing riffs on that record will forever hold a special place in my heart. It’s truly a wonderful album. My big question, however, is: “what the hell happened?”

Despite Dorrian doing an occasional awesome project (“Ice Cold Man” for the Probot album and Teeth of Lions Rule the Divine come to mind), what he has done with Cathedral has not impressed me one bit. He does not have the touch he used to. In those early days with the band, his vocals consisted mainly of deep, grunty croons. Nowadays, it sounds like he is trying to be a heavier Bob Dylan with the way he emphasizes words. The issue is that Dylan is the only person who can make his voice work. This style is still prominent on The Guessing Game, and it seriously detracts from the album.

The band has some moments, like the miniature, Sabbath-y jam on “Edwige’s Eyes” or the short, uneventful but exciting intro that is “Immaculate Misconception”. However, these are few and far between. I don’t know who’s doing most of the writing in these songs, but they’re full of the kind of riffs that people write when they’ve been playing an instrument for about a year and only know basic scales and chord progressions. I don’t get the sense that any real thought went into writing these songs––they just come off as sloppy and thrown together. The clearest example is “Death of an Anarchist”, which features one of the least creative, most unoriginal minor key riffs I’ve ever heard. In stark contrast, the first half of “Requiem for the Voiceless” returns to the classic Cathedral style with slow-churning, deep doom. It is the one song on the whole album that works tremendously well.

I give this album a 49 because it can at least be entertaining. It is not complete crap and can work if you accept Dorrian’s voice and don’t take it from any analytical point of view. Just do not expect anything remotely revolutionary and enjoy it for what it is: Cathedral, no more, no less.

[find this review and more at http://www.mindovermetal.org/]

Trippy... - 70%

doomknocker, April 11th, 2010

The name “CATHEDRAL” brings up legends in the doom scene. Those within the slower-paced metal underworld should know these guys by heart, held in the most esteemed of esteems the likes of which so many of their dim, cloudy ilk attempt but are unable to achieve. Now, to be fair, I’ve never partaken in anything CATHEDRAL-based as I have a very testy relationship with doom metal (the sludgey tempos and lack of interchangeable ideas being the most taxing problems), so this is my first foray into it. I’m sure plenty would tell me to check out “Forest of Equilibrium” first and foremost, but as it stands this will have to do.

I put away my black and folk metal and braced myself for swaths of smoky shadows…

Upon first listen this isn’t what I would consider boilerplate doom (plodding tempos, waif-ish vocals, and slow, chunky riffs that don’t really go anywhere), but rather taking the slow, dragging approach into a sound that is purely experimental with a touch of British silliness. With roots in the metallic scheme of things but venturing into hardly charted musical realms, CATHEDRAL paint an interesting musical tapestry that, to this listener, evokes the dirty back alleys of punk-rock-era London, where smoky clubs were home to shoe gazers and head bashers alike. The song lengths are also perfect for this sort of sound; things flitter by at such a delightfully medium pace that by the time the song’s over you’d’ve never known eight to nine minutes had passed. The overall performance is just as old-school sound-wise, bringing crushing guitars, avant-garde synth dabblings, wah-wahing solos and bleak vocal work to life with a scratchy analog sound for that extra “classic” touch. Such is, it seems, the majesty of these old doomy warhorses, as the likes of “Funeral of Dreams”, “Death of an Anarchist”, and “Casket Chasers” astound and surprise from first listen to beyond.

So in the end I really dug this. Will this warrant my getting their earlier work posthaste? Maybe...time will have to tell. But until then I'll have this little wonder to enjoy to my blackened heart's content.