There are some albums we buy for one track and one track alone. Not that itís a bad album by any means, but we really, really
wanted that one song that was just so cool that if we didnít own it, life would become nothing but a pale shadow.
I know, Iím exaggerating, but you get the idea. One such CD Iím referring to is Cathedralís 1996 EP, Hopkins (The Witchfinder General)
. This was a release from a troubled period in the bandís history, and shortly after it hit the market they released Supernatural Birth Machine
, which turned out to be their least successful album.
Aside from the marring of their reputation SBM created, Hopkins remains an essential part of their catalog. It came during a phase in their careers where they began to distance themselves from more traditional doom metal in fear of becoming stale, and mixed in stoner metal elements. Among others.
The title track opens up with audio clips from the movie that itís based on. The original movie, alternatively titled The Conqueror Worm
, is one of legendary B-movie icon Vincent Priceís most famous roles, and also one of his overall best performances. Price was known for shamelessly hamming up his roles, but as Matthew Hopkins he displayed a restraint that made the movie all the more memorable. Which is probably what made it so appealing to Lee Dorrian and crew.
More audio clips are laced throughout the song, which has some of the headbanging riffs ever committed to a recording. Leeís demented snarling and howling is in top form, and Gaz delivers the obligatory wah-drenched guitar solo. The previously mentioned clips are mostly inserted over instrumental breaks to keep the riff assault from becoming repetitive and boring. Any one who does not feel the groove of this song and feel the urge to headbang is most likely an alien replica posing as a human being to infiltrate our society and replace us all with pod-clones once we fall sleep. Kill them immediately, and for god's sake, don't go to sleep!
Itís followed up by an entertaining cover of Fire, originally by Arthur Brown. This is the song that gave us that famous lyric, ďI am the God of Hellfire!" A classic rock Hammond organ is brought in to re-create that old psychedelia vibe. The song is wonderfully performed, and provides an interesting contrast to the title track in that itís much more upbeat.
The third and middle track is a very doomy instrumental called Copper Sunset. It shifts gears away from the upbeat Fire, creating an atmosphere of oppression and melancholia that Cathedral carved out their early career with.
Purple Wonderland comes up afterward, and is an odd mix of doom and New Wave. Not a fusion many would think of at firstÖ or even at all. Though not a bad song, thereís nothing particularly exciting or memorable about it, and is best relegated to the archives of B-sides.
The final track on the album is a monster of a tune, clocking in at over 9 minutes. The Devilís Summit is perhaps the strangest fusion of all, showing a mixture of doom metal, funk, and jazz. Leeís harsh vocals are of course on display in certain parts, but he also shows off a bit of crooning and clean singing. The most compelling part about this track is the improv sections. Two saxophones and the guitar with a little Hammond organ as well vie for supremacy with one solo after another. This song may take some getting used to, but nevertheless the musicianship is really something to behold.
Though the title track is without a doubt the best on the EP, itís still worth picking up, especially if youíre a fan of Cathedral. Hell, even if youíre just a run-of-the-mill metalhead, you owe it to yourself to hear Hopkins at least once. Even a friend of mine, who is a diehard Metallica fanboy, had to admit that the song was ďfrigginí bad-ass!"