Review Summary: Cathedral’s first and final live album.
As I sit here writing these lines, my mind obligingly travels back in time to that day when I saw Cathedral live for the first and eventually the last time in my life. I remember myself going to the concert unfortunately unprepared, as I wasn’t very familiar with most of their musical material, having listened only to their stunning debut and the compilation album The Serpents Gold
. During the concert I caught myself wondering and questioning the band’s identity. Being labeled as Doom Metal, I expected to see a band performing their slowest, heaviest and most unbearable material they could possibly offer. On the contrary, when the concert was over, I had the impression that what I saw was a typical Heavy Metal band. Of course, I witnessed some remarkable moments of undeniable, ultimate Doom but it wasn’t enough. Nonetheless, the show was great but I went home feeling half emptied, knowing I would never get the chance to see them again on stage. It was less than one month after the concert, when I had listened to their whole discography, that I realized how much the Metal community will miss this band. So far, for over two decades, they have been on the forefront of the Doom Metal scene and they have brought to the listeners some of the heaviest, most pleasurable Doom ever conceived.
is Cathedral’s first live album and was recorded during their performance at London’s Islington Academy on December 10th 2010. A double live album, Anniversary
captures the band performing two sets. In the first set (1st cd) Cathedral performs their debut album in it’s entirety with the original line-up and in the second set (2nd cd) they play a best of selection of their latter day material with the line-up that consisted the band until recently. Forest Of Equilibrium
is undoubtedly on of the finest Doom Metal albums ever written (if not one of the finest Metal albums in general), a testament to the genre that Sabbath spawned some forty years ago and a statement of pure hatred and misery. The first cd can be considered as a gift to the older dedicated fans who followed the band from their very first days. Needless to say, it was the first cd’s offer, which urged me to spend 35 euros. I had an invincible desire to hear a live version of this remarkable debut. But I was also consumed by curiosity, about the band’s overall performance and mostly about the first line-up. After all, they haven’t played together for so many years, so the offer was indeed interesting. Another question bumping in my head was Dorrian’s vocal style. Everyone who has heard the first album knows that he used a semi-growling singing style which he abandon as the years went by.
Every single question I had, was answered just as I returned home and inserted the cd into my computer. The concert begins with the introduction called Picture of Beauty and Innocence
which is taken straight from the original album. Then, Cathedral enters the stage and as soon as the guitarist duo Jennings and Lehan increase their guitar volumes and strike the first notes of Comiserating the Celebration
you find yourself lost in the miserable paradise of Doom. If you thought the compositions founded in their debut are slow then be prepared. The first thing I noticed was that, when compared to the original recordings, the band performes the songs at even slower speeds giving you the feeling of an unstoppable vehicle travelling at 25 mph. The band’s performance is fluid and it feels like they never broke up. However, Adam Lehan’s individual performance, whose second guitar plays a major role to the overall heaviness and adds a lot more than just some solos, unfortunately isn’t flawless. I don’t know if he was an active musician during his time out of Cathedral, but at some points he sounds sloppy. Some of his solos are not well executed and the magnificent outro solo in the 7th track Equilibrium
isn’t played at all. Nevertheless Cathedral’s sound and musical approach is quite different with two guitars and it makes you wonder how different would have sounded if they had stayed that way. Dorrian’s approach disappointed me a little. I was expecting him to use his old trademark style used in the first album for old time’s sake, but he sings throughout the entire live using his “clean” vocals. On the other hand, I always wondered how Forest
would have sounded with a different style, so the concept is somehow intriguing. As the concert evolves with a funeral pace, the music sounds so dense that when the band plays their final song Reaching Happiness
you can feel a cathartic sense of accomplishment waving above the venue.
When the second part of the concert begins, the second line-up brings a wind of change and marks the departure from the slow sludgy hell for the sake of a more up-beat catalogue of songs taken from all the phases of Cathedral’s illustrious career. The songs are faster (save for the tracks Cosmic Funeral and Night of The Seagulls, the latter of which is totally different compared to the original recording) and more progressive. Despite the length of the concert, the crowd sounds always enthusiastic and cheerful, always demanding something more, but the band’s two members Dorrian and Jennings begin to sound somewhat tired towards the end, which I think is normal. The last Spire, an instrumental which serves as an introduction to the encore, has a characteristic 70’s melody and it might remind you of Jon Lord’s work with Purple. Otherwise it is a boring skippable track.
All in all, Anniversary
seems to me, aside from being a live album, as their ultimate compilation. An album which reflects and showcases Cathedral’s two different sides perfectly. The first being much slower and doomy and the second being more progressive and influenced by the 70’s vintage Rock. Is it worthy of noticing ? Definitely. Is it worthy of purchasing ? Well that’s debatable. If Cathedral is an unknown band to you, or if you aren’t familiar with their work, this double live album can work pretty well as an introduction to their music.