Over a decade and a half into their underground but nonetheless legendary career, Cathedral are back with more impetus than one of Freddy Flintoff’s deadliest out-swingers.
Taking absolutely every chance they could have, the British quartet may have kept their roots in Doom Metal-rich soil but the aural landscapes produced on The Garden Of Unearthly Delights play host to some pretty exotic species. This includes yet another bizarre ode to witch-hunting, as well as a near 28-minute opus that laughs in the face of young trendy upstarts who try to justify releasing entire albums of the same length.
With an obligatory fuzzed-out atmospheric introduction out of the way, the first track proper Tree Of Life And Death sees ex-church school boy Lee Dorrian airing some pretty hackneyed resentment against the Catholic Church’s ‘tut-tut’ attitude toward sexuality; stabbed out through a look at Original Sin and the Adam and Eve tale, stoner style.
North Berwick Witch Trials rolls along with a thunderous walking bass line, with Gary Jennings’ killer guitar lines squealing atop and from what I can gather, centres around an historic assassination attempt on King James VI in the 16th century (chew on that!).
Upon Azrael’s Wings becomes fairly repetitive with its stompy drum-driven attack, but the follow up Corpsecycle is a kicked-back, stoner blues fest that takes its theme from Dorrian’s teenage observance of the “living dead” city types who commute on London’s Circle Line in an endless cycle until death (see the link?!).
Fields Of Zagara is as it sounds – a psychedelic ’70s acoustic moment of reflection that sits a little uneasily amongst the head-crushing riffage that precedes it. Despite a severe lack of development, its end is welcomed by the start of Oro The Manslayer. One of the true gems on offer here, this track slugs out a distorted battering assault on the ears, complete with a frighteningly fast bass solo, guitar lead that lasts well over a minute and yes, if you listen very closely there’s even some battle sounds (of “manslaying” presumably!), mixed in underneath it all.
Regardless of the above, this album is worth shelling out for the ninth track alone. Clocking in just shy of the half-hour mark, it is a doom/prog/stoner/epic like the world has never heard. Haunting female vocals continue the Forbidden Fruit theme, while a band from the bowels of somewhere pretty grim hammer out a relentless barrage of raw crunch. Brian Dixon even drops in some acid-jazz drum interludes before battering back into full swing and although I’m not quite sure all of the 28 minutes are justified, it demands reverence if simply for the stamina.
Indeed, endurance, resilience and drive are traits that run deep within the veins of a band like Cathedral, who are clearly making music they love for no other purpose than to share their passion with the world (and maybe as an excuse to talk about witches lots too).