Statik Majik (1994 EP, 40.19) ***/TTT
The Voyage of the Homeless Sapien
Velvet Forest of Enchantment
Along the Tranquil Riverbanks
Drifting Through Neptune's Veins
Rocket Launch Wizard
|The Drifter's Theme
Stone Man Finale
a)Moonlight & Manor Reprise - 'Chant of the Nocturndoz'
The Carnival Bizarre (1995, 62.49) ***/TT
Hopkins (the Witchfinder General)
Night of the Seagulls
|Palace of Fallen Majesty
Hopkins (the Witchfinder General) (1996 EP, 26.22) ***/TTSpoken Intro/Hopkins (the Witchfinder General)
The Devil's Summit
Supernatural Birth Machine (1996, 57.57) ***/TT
|Cyberton 71/Eternal Countdown (Intro)
Stained Glass Horizons
Birth Machine 2000
Dragon Ryder 13
Caravan Beyond Redemption (1998, 67.45) ***½/TT
The Unnatural World
|Kaleidoscope of Desire
The Omega Man
Dust of Paradise
The Guessing Game (2010, 84.50) ****/TTTT
Funeral of Dreams
Painting in the Dark
Death of an Anarchist
The Guessing Game
Cats, Incense, Candles & Wine
One Dimensional People
|The Casket Chasers
La Noche del Buque Maldito (a.k.a. Ghost Ship of the Blind Dead)
The Running Man
Requiem for the Voiceless
Journey Into Jade
Anniversary (2011, 139.08) ***½/T½
|Picture of Beauty and Innocence
Comiserating the Celebration (of Life)
A Funeral Request
Reaching Happiness, Touching Pain
|Funeral of Dreams
Enter the Worms
Upon Azrael's Wings
Night of the Seagulls
The Last Spire pt. 1 (Entrance)
Hopkins (Witchfinder General)
The Last Spire (2013, 58.16) ***½/TT½Entrance to Hell
Cathedral of the Damned
Tower of Silence
Infestation of Grey Death
The Last Laugh
This Body, Thy Tomb
In the late '80s, singer Lee Dorrian left noiseniks Napalm Death to pursue a more Sabbath-orientated direction. It has to be said that in this he's been a roaring success; Cathedral are more Sabbath than Sabbath. The same grinding, downtuned guitars, riff-based epics, silly titles and even sillier lyrics, not to mention some outrageously Iommi-like lead work from Garry Jennings. In fact, Tony Iommi was so impressed by their near-pastiche that he even guested on Utopian Blaster from The Carnival Bizarre.
Cathedral sit fairly and squarely in the 'doom' camp, as against 'death', 'black' or any other variety of grindingly slow demonic metal. Their sleeve notes frequently have lengthy 'influences' lists including just about any obscure early-'70s progressive outfit you may care to name, including such Mellotron-masters as Spring, Fantasy, Sandrose and Czar. Hardly unsurprisingly, after a couple of albums Cathedral decided to enter the murky world of the Mellotron user, and stuck some on their Statik Majik EP; lead track Midnight Mountain was from the previous year's The Ethereal Mirror album, so they must have discovered the 'Tron in the intervening months. Cosmic Funeral (Oh, please!) only manages a few heavily-phased notes, but the 22-minute Voyage Of The Homeless Sapien is smothered in it. I wouldn't say their Mellotron use was exactly innovative, or even particularly well-played or arranged, but it certainly adds to the track's appeal and is actually well worth hearing.
Cathedral's Mellotron use is certainly rather uneven; of Carnival Bizarre's three relevant tracks, it's inaudible on one, barely used on another and swamped on the third. Purple Wonderland, from '96's Hopkins EP is a real oddity; starting with almost 'disco' drumming (sometimes Cathedral take their '70s fixation just a little too far...), it mutates into an almost-ballad, with loads of 'Tron strings. Mind you, the following track has a brass and organ-led funk feel, so I take it all back about Wonderland... Supernatural Birth Machine's opening track has some excellent strings, and the sort-of title track Birth Machine 2000 manages a quick burst in the middle, but neither track comes anywhere near their epic of a couple of years earlier.
1998's Caravan Beyond Redemption was their last 'Tron album for over a decade, coming after a period of turmoil for the band. It's possibly their most cohesive album yet, inserting their Sabbathesque riffs into a more groove-orientated setting, although (presumably due to the gap between releases), it's a little overlong. Jennings adds 'Tron strings to opener Voodoo Fire, Captain Clegg (complete with film dialogue) and Kaleidoscope Of Desire, with cellos on The Caravan, making for one of the band's better Mellotron efforts. Incidentally, 2001's Endtyme was a stripped-back, keyboardless affair, while the following year's The VIIth Coming uses samples.
Four years on from the sample-only The Garden of Unearthly Delights, Cathedral finally release their best work to date, 2010's double-disc The Guessing Game. Now, I have to own up to some personal interest here; the band hired my M400 for the recording, using it heavily, although that doesn't change my opinion of the actual music on offer. Well, the bulk of the sprawling set showcases an older, more mature Cathedral, material such as Funeral Of Dreams, Cats, Incense, Candles & Wine and the animal rights paean Requiem For The Voiceless sounding both like and unlike their earlier work. I'm not personally convinced by the overly-literal band history number Journey Into Jade, but the gorgeous title track makes up for any vague quibbles I may have. I've been assured that none of the extensive Mellotron use disappeared in the mix (not an uncommon occurrence, sadly), with distant choirs (and oboe?) on Immaculate Misconception, vibes, tubular bells, brass, string section and flutes on Funeral Of Dreams, phased strings on Death Of An Anarchist, strings and flutes on the title track, string section (?) on Cats, Incense, Candles & Wine, church organ on La Noche Del Buque Maldito, and what sounds like a strings/brass mix on The Running Man, all by the estimable Dave "Munch" Moore, excluding Jennings' contributions on the title track. This really is magnificent, chaps; supplying the machine with all five of my tape-frames seems to've inspired you to stretch out musically. Now reproduce it live...
Cathedral's first live album, 2011's two-disc Anniversary was recorded at their Islington Academy gig in late 2010, the first set given over to a performance of their twenty year-old debut, 1991's Forest of Equilibrium, complete with original members. (Incidentally, from where I was standing, many punters were infuriated at the evening's early start and the decision to play the album first, as many of them had only come for that reason, turned up late and missed it). Now, you'll either like this or you... won't. It's probably the epitome of the band's Sabbathesque style, grinding its way through almost an hour of deathly slow metal, akin accidentally playing an LP at 162/3, the only relief coming from a suitably cowled ex-Circulus flautist Will Summers guesting on Reaching Happiness, Touching Pain. The second set mixes new and old material together gleefully, crowd favourites including Upon Azrael's Wings and Cosmic Funeral. Munch plays not only my M400, but a Memotron, too, for the sounds not on my main tapeframe, not least the vibes and brass on Funeral Of Dreams. Real Mellotron on a handful of tracks, with flutes on Funeral Of Dreams, a string line on Cosmic Funeral and chordal string parts on Carnival Bizarre and Corpsecycle, all somewhat more audible than they were on the night.
2013's The Last Spire is, sadly, Cathedral's parting shot, in some ways a return to their roots, although that prog influence keeps worming its way into the material. New habits die hard? Old doomsters should enjoy most of the album, particularly Pallbearer, as long as they're not bothered by its progressive touches, while more recent fans need to hear the ten-minute An Observation (spot the Crimso reference), which moves through several sections in true prog style. One minor criticism: the multiple repeats of Lee intoning 'bring out your dead' on opener Entrance To Hell are pure Python, rather undermining their intended effect. Munch returns on keys, including my Mellotron again, with a solo vibes spot on Cathedral Of The Damned, something Mellotronic (a vibes/flute mix?) on Infestation Of Grey Death, a high cello line (doubled with piano) on An Observation, repeated later on with a nice counterpoint before a raucous string part, with background strings and echoed flutes on closer This Body, Thy Tomb to finish things off nicely. And are those Mellotron tubular bells on Entrance To Hell?
Cathedral seem to hover on the border of genuine affection for their influence(s) and pure pastiche, so it's rather difficult to know whether or not to recommend them, even to the dedicated Sabbath fan. There is some nice 'Tron work scattered throughout these releases, but I wouldn't exactly put them at the top of your 'must-have' Mellotron list, bar The Guessing Game.
The VIIth Coming (2002, 53.27) ***½
Resisting the Ghost
The Empty Mirror
Black Robed Avenger
|Congregation of Sorcerers
Halo of Fire
The Garden of Unearthly Delights (2006, 65.46) ***½
|Dearth AD 2005
Tree of Life & Death
North Berwick Witch Trials
Upon Azrael's Wings
Fields of Zagara
Oro the Manslayer
Beneath a Funeral Sun
Cathedral have been ploughing their very particular furrow for the last twenty years as Britain's premier doom/stoner/whatever-you-like-to-call-it outfit, led by Lee Dorrian and Gaz Jennings. Several of their releases feature real Mellotron, although they used samples on 2002's The VIIth Coming and The Garden of Unearthly Delights, from four years later, principally due to the unreliability of their usual hire machine (nuthin' to do with me, squire) and not knowing anyone who owned one.
I personally find that The VIIth Coming is a more cohesive album than its predecessors, although with a welcome return to the keyboard use of those earlier albums. Munch (just Munch, actually Dave Moore) plays 'Mellotron' strings and choir on The Empty Mirror and a few background string chords on Black Robed Avenger, but it doesn't, frankly, really sound like a Mellotron at all. If anything, though, The Garden of Unearthly Delights (nice touch) is even better, featuring another outrageous Cathedral epic in the sprawling near-as-dammit 27-minute The Garden, with help from members of the glorious Circulus. Bassist Leo Smee plays samplotron on the track, but not a lot, so don't bother if that's all you're after.
Two good albums in their genre, then, but no real 'Tron. Wait for their next album, I say... (see above).