Album review: CATHEDRAL – The Last Spire

Rise Above – Release Date 29/4/2013.

The first time that the possibility of London-based Doomsters Cathedral calling it a day was on the cards was back in 2010, from the very mouth of the band’s legendary frontman Lee Dorian. During a very enjoyable and in depth interview Lee admitted having had such thoughts and, sadly for the fans of classic Doom, these very thoughts turned into reality last year.

The only consolation would be that what can rightfully be termed as the ‘end of an era’ will be marked by the release of a final full length album entitled “The Last Spire”  – an album that will be rightfully issued by Lee’s record label and the band’s spiritual home, Rise Above records.

Any band that has been as influential as Cathedral understands the necessity of leaving the music world with a ‘bang’ – but this is easier said than done when their previous studio effort “The Guessing Game” was, simply put, one of the most innovative and musically-accomplished releases of this genre. So how well did “The Last Spire” fare in comparison?

Well, even though “The Guessing Game”  continues to be Cathedral’s ‘magnum opus’ this eight track release came quite close in emulating a similar success. Far less “prog” and experimental in comparison, but it certainly holds quite a few aces up its sleeve, “The Last Spire” is a form of retrospective featuring elements from all the stages in the band’s career but mainly focusing on classic Doom formulae, thereby closing the musical circle first opened by “In Memoriam” back in 1990.

There is something quintessentially English about the delightful medieval-themed introduction of “Entrance To Hell” that should well prepare you for the coming onslaught, entitled “Pallbearer”. During its twelve minutes, the listener is exposed to classic slow-paced guitar riffs, pompous chants and 70s sounding keys – all working together in relative harmony and to the benefit of the composition itself. Jennings’ guitar turns more distorted and straight-forward and Sabbath-influenced in compositions such as “Cathedral Of The Damned” and “Tower Of Silence”, leaving the beautiful acoustic guitar and haunting keyboard melodies of “Infestation Of Grey Death” to sort of steal the show.

If, like me, you loved the band’s past endeavour to bring the worlds of Prog and Doom closer together then you will love the ten minute free-spirited “An Observation” and the resulting emotional tiredness that you ought to have accumulated by this stage explains the band’s decision to use a thirty nine second breather entitled “The Last Laugh” as a follow-up.

Being not only the last song of the album but also the last ever composition ever to be recorded by this band, “This Body, Thy Tomb” has plenty to live up to but pulls through in style. Opening with a classic Doom Metal riff and led by Lee’s trademark vocals, the song soon picks up pace and groove and finishes in dynamic fashion, but not before showcasing some truly inspiring melodic moments on the acoustic guitar and on keys, respectively.

All good things come to an end in this life and even though I feel really sad to see Cathedral go, I believe that this should not be a time of sorrow. Rather than mourning, we should focus on celebrating the life of a band which, during the last twenty three years, has presented us with ten magnificent albums, products of honesty, devotion and passion that have left their mark on the Doom Metal scene and which, let’s face it, will find it difficult to be surpassed in quality by any of the large number of hopefuls out there!

Guys, thank you very music for this long, exciting and truly magical music trip! Cathedral are dead – long live Cathedral!

John Stefanis

Rating: ****1/2 (4.5/5.0)




 

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