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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.