The Cathedral of doom!
It all started back in the year of our Lord 1989. Lee Dorrian, former singer (or should we say growler?) of the legendary Napalm Death quits the band, as he was sick of the whole punk scene back then, with the rest of the band trying to move in a more death metal direction for their upcoming album ”Harmony Corruption”. So he decided to move on and form another band in a totally different musical direction. He found Mark ‘Griff’ Griffiths for the bass guitar (who was formerly a roadie for the other legendary grindcore band Carcass) and Gary ‘Gaz’ Jennings for the guitars who had just left the English thrashers Acid Reign. Dorrian and Griffiths were very much into bands such as Black Sabbath, Witchfinder General, Pentagram, Trouble, Candlemass and many others and they decided to try and play like them, reviving their sound as much as possible. The band was named Cathedral Of Doom but soon cut the name and until today remained the one we all have known and loved so far: Cathedral! Soon, the band was joined by Adam Lehan on guitars, the guy that replaced Jennings in Acid Reign (no hard feelings as it seemed) and Ben Mochrie on drums and their first demo entitled ”In Memorium” was completed in October of 1990, including a cover on Pentagram’s ”All Your Sins”. They also released another demo called ”Demo #2” the next year, where Mike Smail replaced Ben Mochrie on drums. With this line up, it was about time releasing the first full length in the ends of 1991.
An album where equilibrium collapses under the weight of its songs!
On the summer of 1991 the band enters Workshop Studios in Redditch to complete their first full length entitled ”Forest Of Equilibrium”. Earache is the record company that signs the band and on December of the same year the album is released. 20 years later, its impact is still large and it is few we can tell about its worth. A sample of total doom metal crawling next to everybody’s ears for about 54 minutes, divided in seven songs. The funny thing was about the press, always emphasizing on the fact that Dorrian left the fastest band in the world (Napalm Death) back then to join the slowest one (Cathedral). Songs like ”Ebony Tears” (a video was made for that one) and ”Serpent Eve” are the ones that stand out as the most characteristic ones, though ”Soul Sacrifice” is the short one of the album, lasting less than three minutes. What made a great impression was the outstanding cover of Dave Patchett, who still accompanies the band with his artwork until today. His style is really unique and one not knowing, should open the whole booklet in every album to see the magic hidden behind his art. The band appeared on a split made by Earache called ”Gods Of Grind”, also featuring Entombed, Carcass (the only grind band of the compilation) and Confessor! This was released the next year. Before that, on the beginning of 1992 in January, they enter Rhythm Studios to record their first EP ”Soul Sacrifice”, which was relased in October, with a different version of the title track compared to the debut and with Mark Ramsey Wharton having replaced Mike Smail on the drums. Quite experimental and different compared to the first album, the signs of change in Cathedral’s music were clear and the second album was awaited with a lot of expectations by the fans. A video was made for the song ”Autumn Twilight”.
Looking in the mirror, you sometimes see another you!
In 1992 Mark Griffiths leaves the band and Cathedral are without bassist at this point of time. Whoever thought this might discourage them, was totally wrong, as they move on without hesitation and during the year they record their second full length ”The Ethereal Mirror” at Manor Studion in Oxford. Gaz takes over the bass duties also and the album is released on the first day of February 1993. It is clear from the first gigantic riff of ”Ride” that the whole musical direction has changed in something more groovy and up-tempo and the songs seem to breathe a little more. The album flows like clear water with amazing stuff such as ”Enter The Worms”, ”Grim Luxuria”, and the trademark song ”Midnight Mountain” for which a great hippie-like video was made (as another video was made for ”Ride” also). To many people, this is the real Cathedral sound and they consider it the best album they have done so far. It was a definite step forward and it made the band optimistic for a brighter future. Work continues as Cathedral are full of inspiration and on August they enter Rhythm Studios to record the second EP ”Statik Majik” which sees the light of day in April of 1994. It contains the large nearly 23 minute opus ”The Voyage Of The Homeless Sapien” and it was re-released in August 1994 as ”Cosmic Requiem” with the only change that it featured ”Funeral Request-Rebirth” instead of ”Midnight Mountain”. A video was made for ”Cosmic Funeral”. Things seem to be getting on the perfect direction and the departure of both Adam Lehan and Mark Ramsey Wharton doesn’t reduce the morale of the band. Replacement is soon found on Leo Smee on the bass and Brian Dixon on the drums, a line up that lasted until the moment of the release of their last album so far for about 17 years. Before that, the band was helped by Victor Griffin of Pentagram on guitars and Joe Hasselvander (ex Raven) on the drums.
The dream album, the moustache of metal, and the eternal trademark song in their career!
Recorded in Nottingham in May 1995, the third full length of Cathedral entitled ”The Carnival Bizarre” marks the point where Cathedral reach the peak of their inspiration and are officially established as one of the top bands in the rock/metal scene at this specific moment in time. With the new line-up proving that fit perfectly from the beginning, the album is released in September 1995 and we can claim there ain’t a single second unworthy in it in the 63 minutes of music it contains. The initial ”Vampire Sun” is a classic live opener until today, ”Utopian Blaster” contains a solo by Tony Iommi in maybe Cathedral’s most happy moment in life (we know that all of them are declared huge Black Sabbath fans) and if there is one song everyone knows from this band, that it definitely ”Hopkins (The Witchfinder General)” with a great video done for that (I know many people who fell in love with the actress), featuring excerpts by the legendary movie ”The Witchfinder General” where the enormous Vincent Price is starring. The whole sum is really amazing and in my personal opinion, we’re talking about Cathedral’s finest hour to date. The album was followed by the ”Hopkins” EP in April of 1996, a great EP once again with a cover on Arthur Brown’s ”Fire” and the amazing ”The Devils Summit” at the end, showing how open-minded and experimental they could get on their EP’s. And then they straightly ride for the release of their next album. Shortly after ”Hopkins” EP they enter Parkgate Studios, in Battle and they record the fourth full length album.
The hasty movement that could have been avoided!
On November of 1996 ”Supernatural Birth Machine is released and it seems/sounds for the first time in their career until then, that it’s a step backwards compared to what they had released so far. The album is not bad at all, completely the opposite. But it really sounds like it was done rather hasty, maybe to take advantage of the whole momentum, since their name was rising on and on. It contains great stuff on it such as ”Urko’s Conquest” (straight reference on General Urko from ”Planet Of The Apes” series on TV, the love of all members for horror movies and cult TV series is also widely known), ”Cyclops Revolution”, ”Birth Machine 2000” and of course, ”Stained Glass Horizon” which is the one that got a video made for it. In overall, the album is still heavy and full of quality, but at some points it seems that a little of the magic is gone and also, Dorrian’s vocals are a little strange on this recording (to say the least). The response from the press though was not negative at all so the band’s rumor was not ruined. Any publicity is good publicity they say, Cathedral were still here alive and kicking. And they proved it in the best way with their next albums. Who was born perfect anyway?
The caravan that brought redemption!
In late 1998, we had the release of the band’s fifth full length album ”Caravan Beyond Redemption”. Recorded on the summer of 1998 at Chapel Studios in Lincolnshire with the help of production master Andy Sneap, this album had all potential to become very special. And it did, as it is surrounded by positive energy and the clear and heavy production helps a lot to it. Dorrian does the best singing of his life until then, the band seems refreshed, having learned their lesson with the previous album and some of the best songs they have written in their whole career are included here, such as ”Voodoo Fire”, ”Captain Clegg”, ”Earth Messiah” and the heavy entities of ”Satanikus Robotikus” and ”Heavy Load”. Experimental moments are not missing with ”Kaleidoscope Of Desire” being a quite different track and a video for the bonus track of the Japanese version of the album ”Black Sunday” is made (do you know many bands that would do such a thing? If so, tell me). The album was a great success and put the band back in order, somehow though it seemed that they needed something different to give them motive for the years to come. The answer came three years later in a very convincing and uncompomising way, catching all fans by great surprise.
Time for the end? Of course not. It is written with a Y after all!
After the re-release of the two first EP’s ”Soul Sacrifice” and ”Statik Majik” in one cd (long out of print and demanded by the fans) in 1999 and their first demo ”In Memorium” (changed in ”In Memoriam” and with five live bonus tracks added, recorded in Holland in 1991) in 2000, there was also a DVD/video tape entitled ”Our God Has Landed” released in 2001, featuring all the promo videos of the band until then plus a live performance from the ”Gods Of Grind” tour back in 1992, a perfect sample for the fans wanting to have an extra bit of the band and feel it close to them. In the summer of 2000 Cathedral were recording their next album in Chapel Studios, the album was released in February 2001 entitled ”Endtyme” and it was a big shock for fans and non fans. This time, the band decided to make a U-turn and return to their roots, thinking that continuing in the same direction as in the previous four albums might mean the end of the band. A suffocating heaviness pours out from the speakers for 64 minutes and the heaviest album in Cathedral’s history was an undeniable fact. ”Melancholy Emperor”, ”Whores To Oblivion” and ”Alchemist Of Sorrows” are only a few stand-out tracks in a very solid album that even people not familiar with the band’s material praised it for its music. The goal was achieved and they could go on free from any stress or thoughts concerning their future or music. It is also the album that doesn’t contain a cover by Dave Patchett, as there were rumors of no high budget for the cover by Earache. The Japanese version did actually enjoy a different cover by the charismatic artist. That was the last album for the band in Earache, marking the closing of a chapter that lasted about a decade.
Second half of their history begins, new record label, controversial album!
Once again, Cathedral return to Chapel Studios to record their seventh album in July 2002 which was symbolically called ”The VIIth Coming”. The album was released on October of the same year under the label of Dream Catcher Inc. Once again a good heavy album with much tracks to be nominated such as ”Phoenix Rising”, ”Resisting The Ghost”, ”Skullflower” and the Celtic Frost tribute track ”Congregation Of Sorcerers” (are you morbid? UGH)! However, fans and press are sometimes really hard to catch and the album was not faced as something really impressive. Maybe the impact ”Endtyme” had left was much more greater than expected, maybe it was the wrong album at the wrong moment. Who can clearly tell after all? I remember watching this album at the offers in each record shop and still not getting the reason why (fans didn’t ask much about it though, they would just come in and simply buy it). In the same year, Dorrian took part on the album ”Rampton” by the super project Teeth Of Lions Rule The Divine, with Stephen O’Malley and Greg Andersson from the legendary Sunn O))) and drummer Justin Greaves of Iron Monkey and Electric Wizard. Fans of ”Forest Of Equilibrium” and ”Endtyme” must check it out immediately. ”The VIIth Coming” was a one-off co-operation with Dream Catcher Inc. and despire the fact that the album still raises a lot of controversy and the fact that Leo Smee had left the band for a while, replaced by Max Edwards as a touring bassist, they managed to avoid any problems and signed a contract with Nuclear Blast Records in 2004. In June of the same year, a great double compilation cd was released by Earache (as usually happens when there are contract issues) entitled ”The Serpent’s Gold”, with the first cd being a best of (”The Serpent’s Chest”) and the second cd a great collection of unreleased tracks (”The Serpent’s Treasure”).
Welcome to the garden, we’ve got fun and games!
Once again, Cathedral enjoyed the process of recording another full length album, number eight in their catalogue and first for Nuclear Blast Records. Inspired by a painting of a famous Dutch painter, Hieronymous Bosch, the album is entitled ”The Garden Of Unearthly Delights”. Cathedral sound like in the same state after ”Supernatural Birth Machine” when they released ”Caravan Beyond Redemption”. With rumours spreading that the band was about to split up after ”The VIIth Coming”, the quartet sounds tight and inspiring once again and with tracks like ”North Berwick Witch Trials”, ”Upon Azrael’s Wings” and ”Oro The Manslayer” they do nothing more than proving it. Also, here we have the longest Cathedral track ever with ”The Garden” lasting about 27 minutes (longer than an EP itself). Something to be mentioned is that the digipack version of the cd contains an apple smell once you open it, which also spreads in your room while listening to this cd, connecting it with the cover where the green apple is put to the center of it. It took them four and a half years until they release another album, but they toured taking part in many festivals and proving once more that once they step on the stage, nothing can beat them.
The double album and the shock decision!
On late 2009 Cathedral moved on to record their latest album so far called ”The Guessing Game”. Released on March 2010, it marks the most daring Cathedral release to date, consisting of two cd’s with a total of thirteen tracks and 85 minutes of music. This time Cathedral sound like a ’70s band, paying tribute to their old listenings and heroes. As we mentioned before, a very risky move that left the press not uninterested, with both praising and negative comments surrounding the album. In my humble opinion it is their least interesting effort to date but it is all a matter of taste, as I know people that don’t like the other albums and they like this one only. The shock came on February of 2011 with Cathedral announcing that the time to disband has come after 20 years and that after a last tour until the end of the year, a last album will follow in 2012. Lee Dorrian stated that it’s a miracle the band lasted that long but it was time to call it a day, as they felt it could go nowhere further. A painful decision for the fans but rather respectful in all ways, showing that Cathedral were first of all honest to theirselves all these years and to their fans also. The band is touring with Scott Carlson of the legendary Repulsion in this last tour, having took over the bass duties in the place of Leo Smee, so make sure you’ll catch them up for another extra reason among the others.
The legacy, the aftermath, the memories!
Cathedral was not a love/hate situation as it proved to be after two decades. People liking all kinds of music had most of the times something positive to say. Praising their honesty and composing ability, their status was always clear and large. They never were the band that would sell millions but they were responsible for the rise of the so called ”stoner” scene (especially when Kyuss split up in 1995) and especially Lee Dorrian helped the whole scene a lot, with his record label Rise Above Records. He has signed bands like Orange Goblin in the past or like Ghost in the current moment, to mention a few. Cathedral were the expressionists of the Black Sabbath vision in music, always making things simple while playing and always remaining close to their roots, though it was needed to dive deep into them in ”Endtyme”. They were fortunate to have great players from the beginning and a line up that lasted 17 years and helped the band remain tight and solid through its whole evolution. They will forever be acknowledged as one of the best bands one could encounter in his whole lifetime and they will be missed for all the reasons mentioned above. I was lucky to see them three times, first in ”Caravan Beyond Redemption” tour in Athens, second in ”The VIIth Coming” tour in Thessaloniki (not even 100 people there, what a shame) and third and last so far in Hellfest 2009 in France (amazing performance). When I came across them in 2002 and had the luck to meet them all in person, I was able to know their kindness in person, their rather cool minds and the mood to discuss with their fans anything possible. Dorrian told me that some day he’s going to make another grind album like the old Napalm Death ones (I was lucky to see him performing with Napalm Death in 2009 also as a guest invited on stage, what a fortunate series of events), Gaz told me that it was an honour for him to play a song sounding like Celtic Frost (meaning ”Congregation Of Sorcerers”) and Dixon was very smiley and teasing the other two guys. He also gave me a drum stick, asking me first to wait a while before I leave. I didn’t even ask him about that, he did it on his own. I hope I will be able to meet them again (and Scott Carlson of course) and say the least I could in such a case: THANK YOU GUYS for all those amazing 20 years you lasted!
1990: In Memorium (Demo)
1991: Demo # 2 (Demo)
1991: Forest Of Equilibrium (1st album), re-released in 2009 as a dual-disc, containing ”Soul Sacrifice” EP as a bonus disc, plus a DVD with the making of the album and interviews with the original members and artist Dave Patchett
1992: Gods Of Grind (Split)
1992: Soul Sacrifice (EP)
1993: Twylight Songs (Single)
1993: Grim Luxuria (Single)
1993: Ride (Single)
1993: Midnight Mountain (Single)
1993: The Ethereal Mirror (2nd album), re-released in 2009 as a dual disc, containing ”Statik Majik” EP as a bonus disc, plus a DVD with the making of the album and interviews with the original members and artist Dave Patchett
1994: Statik Majik (EP)
1994: Cosmic Requiem (EP), re-release of ”Statik Majik” with a different cover and tracklisting
1995: The Carnival Bizarre (3rd album)
1996: Hopkins (The Witchfinder General) (EP)
1996: Supernatural Birth Machine (4th album)
1998: Caravan Beyond Redemption (5th album)
1999: Soul Sacrifice/Statik Majik (Compilation), re-release of the first two EP’s in one cd, long out of print
2000: In Memoriam (Compilation), re-release of the first demo with alternate title plus live bonus tracks
2001: Our God Has Landed (Video Tape/DVD), contains all promo video clips and live from ”Gods Of Grind” tour
2001: Gargoylian (Single), also appearing on Japanese edition of ”Endtyme”
2001: Endtyme (6th album)
2002: The VIIth Coming (7th album)
2004: The Serpent’s Gold (Compilation), CD 1:The Serpent’s Chest (Best Of), CD 2: The Serpent’s Treasure (Unreleased and rare tracks)
2005: The Garden Of Unearthly Delights (8th album)
2010: The Guessing Game (9th album)
2012: The last 10th album, no title yet
Lee Dorrian – Vocals (1989-today)
Garry ‘Gaz’ Jennings – Guitars (1989-today), Bass (1993-1994), Keyboars (1994-1996)
Brian Dixon – Drums (1994-today)
Scott Carlson – Bass 1995 (live only), 2011-…
Adam Lehan – Guitars (1989-1994)
Mark Griffiths – Bass (1989-1992)
Leo Smee – Bass (1994-2011)
Ben Mochrie – Drums (1990)
Mike Smail – Drums (1991)
Mark Ramsey Wharton – Drums (1992-1994), Keyboards (1992)
Victor Griffin – Guitars (1994)
Joe Hasselvander – Drums (1994)
Dave Hornyak – Drums (1995)
Max Edwards – Bass (2003-2004)
Aggelos “Redneck” Katsouras.