Cathedral - In Memoriam


by Matt Hensch

.
Calling the work created by Lee Dorrian and Gaz Jennings over the course of Cathedral's long and incredible run a monumental feat makes sense in more ways than one. The band's several full-length albums and EPs constitute a biosphere of wacky 70s-esque prog buzzing freely over the bleak terra firma of doom metal running to the horizon and beyond. Like a lot of folks, I find my fancy most tickled by "Forest of Equilibrium," which stands irreplaceable among the Cathedral gallery as a depressive tableau of doom metal perfection, and is rightfully hailed as one of the sound's cornerstone pieces. Before giving birth to what is Cathedral's magnum opus, there was this four-song demo-the very first piece of Cathedral's music, put out in 1991 with mournful hands and a love for the riff.

"In Memoriam" serves almost as a probing period of the doom metal style that is found both here and the perfection of its most celebrated endeavor. "In Memoriam" shows the "Forest of Equilibrium" aesthetic budding, though here it has yet to reach fruition. This is especially evident in "Mourning of a New Day," the eight-minute bulldozer which starts the upheaval of doom. It carries the bloodline of "Forest of Equilibrium" down to the finest detail, moving slower than a sloth on a bender before jumping up a notch in tempo. The gap in quality between demo and album is clear; the track is decent, just not excellent. A Pentagram cover ("All Your Sins") is thrown in afterwards, appearing more like Cathedral's own child than the actual source to which it pays homage. It is heavy, gloomy, destructive; this is how cover songs should be executed. "All Your Sins" given the Cathedral treatment is a real gem.

The occasional oddball who calls Cathedral's early stuff doom/death metal doesn't look like such a pants-pissing loon hearing Lee almost growl the vocals. The form reflects much of his stint in Napalm Death, and it's obvious that some of that death metal design, although later trimmed, has prominence here. "Ebony Tears," arguably Cathedral's apex anthem, appears here in all its dejected glory and outshines the other songs, but that isn't too surprising. It is a tremendous example of Cathedral's scope during these nascent days, and surely outshines the others. No surprise it would later make the jump to "Forest of Equilibrium" and serve as one of its prime moments.

The style is superb, but I still can't shake the fact that "March" is kind of sh*tty in its own little way. Whereas "Mourning of a New Day" and "All Your Sins" come close to the level of quality found throughout "Forest of Equilibrium," "March" just farts around for seven minutes without doing much. The song serves its purpose-shuffle bit by bit in what could be called an organized and rhythmic movement of feet-without doing much else, I'm afraid. Yeah, it's slow and heavy, but the Cathedral magic is absent. Part of this stems from Lee never once croaking during its seven-minute trot, as it is an instrumental. "March" at least has the atmosphere of the demo nailed down, although its music just isn't absorbing.

The bonus live set added to "In Memoriam" is stellar, as it was recorded in the band's early days and features three-fourths of the demo played live (no room for "March") along with "Commiserating the Celebration" and "Serpent's Eve," both of which would later appear in "Forest of Equilibrium," of course. The death metal aesthetic is especially flourishing in Lee's growling grunts, adding ample might to the lively yet gloomy performances and a sound quality which pours out in crispy bites. The quality and package that has become "In Memoriam" is superb; a zygote from which the seeds of a masterpiece had been fertilized. Cathedral, a wonderful group, were compelling even in its embryonic stages. I suppose coming back to the demo after Cathedral's expiry makes a frightening amount of sense: life may still linger in aspects unseen through death and beyond.

Cathedral - In Memoriam
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