Review Summary: An all-new level of weirdness.Line up:
Lee Dorrian - Vocals
Garry Jennings - Guitars, Keyboards & Mellotron
Leo Smee - Bass
Brian Dixon - Drums & Percussion
Brian Love Bucket - Saxophone
Howell Babe Magnet - Saxophone
Paul Johnston - Hammond Organ
If there’s one thing Cathedral’s history taught us, was that of their experimental nature. Sure, their body of work was mainly a sabbathian-worshipping riffology, but, underneath their heavy riffs, an array of secondary instruments, sprinkled here and there, made their songs irresistible to temptation. Most metal bands would dread the idea of using instruments such as mellotrons, saxophones, and trumpets to their hard-hitting, metallic songs. But Cathedral was not a mere bastard child spawned by Sabbath. They had a vision of their own; no boundaries, no limits, all heavy & killer, no filler. Therefore, the notion of going where no one had ever gone before, came off kinda natural.
With that in mind, it’s not shocking how weird all of their EP’s sound, especially this one. Each EP was a new chance at experimentation. And every time Lee Dorrian and his gang of metallic henchmen disappeared behind the doors of a studio to produce a brand new extended play, they emerged with something completely different from anything else they had recorded.
, the opener, does a poor job at preparing you for what is to come next. In an appropriate manner of Cathedral acting like…Cathedral, they choose to contradict themselves yet again. Only an idiosyncratic like these blokes from Coventry would choose to open their most experimental EP with their biggest hit. A clever move from a business standpoint nonetheless since that song worked as bait to the consumers and forced them to experience the band at their most colorful yet.
No matter the cause, I must say I like these guys, and not just for their sharp sense of humor. But also, because they take you by surprise. Every single time. You wouldn’t expect to hear the band’s biggest hit making a stylistic return on this record, would you? Yet, here it is, bursting out of the doors and hitting you right in the face with its poppy riff and catchy bridge. Little can be said to justify its reputation in the underground cycles. It is by far their most mainstream moment. Cathedral never again got so close to “radio-friendly”. Such an unhopeful victory it was for the band that trying to capitalize its success and use it as the opening song was only natural. The vintage sampling/spoken intro taken from the classic, British, cult movie, Witchfinder General, sets the mood for the eschewing witch-hunt, while the rhythm section spits out kickass grooves of forthright and honest rock ‘n’ roll. The production values are of high quality; the bass is very well done and quite distinguished in the final mix. The sound of the drums is also awesome; loud and deep, they cut right through your speakers. Cathedral is rocking out shamelessly in this one and they’re doing it right. All in all, an awesome song.
Then, things just get strange...
The rest of the catalog is not exactly heavy metal, but pretty much a mixture of everything, from jazz/funk to disco/synth-pop music and prog-rock. A plethora of instruments is introduced; synthesizers, mellotrons, saxophones. The use of keyboards is amplified, bringing forth a hypnotic and dazzling feel to the music. The guitars are not completely omitted; they’re just not the leading instruments anymore. Jennings keeps his axes sharp; his guitars maintain that thick, crunchy and down-tuned sound and his bluesy solos are one of the highlights of this record; always expressive, tasteful and devoid of wankery. Each and every song showcases the musicians’ abilities to bend genres; Fire
, is an Arthur Brown cover, a trippy psychedelic song done in a Cathedral fashion. Copper Sunset
is an instrumental, a reworked piece of music, rearranged by Jennings. This song was originally called To Take Him Away
by Sandrose, a 70’s short-lived prog-rock band from France. Purple Wonderland
just takes you to places. Weird as hell, but very effective and trippy. Imagine David Bowie’s 80’s disco coupled with doomy riffs. And on top of that, just an ambient veil of spooky sounds caused by keyboards and effects.
The Devil’s Summit
is another highlight and the longest track here; an almost 10-minute jam of funky beats, doomy guitars and jazzy background. It’s not exactly jazz by the numbers if you know what I mean. Just jazz as it would be interpreted by metal musicians. Nevertheless, a lot more fun and enjoyable than most of the jazz I’ve heard. This is where a ton of instruments are being used. The middle section of the song where the musicians try to outplay one another is the most fascinating moment of this record. The sax players battle for supremacy only to be abruptly stopped by Jennings’s smooth soloing, which in turn, is cut short by keyboards and a Hammond organ. Dorrian’s performance is simply great. He has reworked his singing technique in order to fit the style. He sounds like an old, weary bluesman in parts, oozing nastiness while his pen is aflame; witty and cunning, dealing with topics such as Salem witch, war, trials, hell and everything in between. The song’s epilogue has a queer feel to it. As if the band is almost doing a parody of the Saturday Night Live closing music. Nothing more or less than just a light-hearted fvck you to the press and critics. How can you not love them ?
Nothing can beat this killer combo of heavy guitars with jazz, funk and new wave. But even the most faithful fan will have a hard time settling down with Cathedral’s eclectic experimentation. Less if you are just getting started. Apart from Hopkins
, everything else here sounds…eccentric to say the least. Not boring in any way, just so strange and different from their previous works. But we said it; thinking outside of the box is the name of this game here and branching out on occasion is the only way to make your music all the more interesting and keep things fresh within a band.
Most editions of this EP feature a 5-song track list. Mind you, there are versions of a 6-song track list. This track is yet another cover of a song called You Know
, by British prog-rock group, Curved Air. There’s nothing memorable about it. Just a poppy, progressive-minded tune, neither great nor bad.
Hopkins (The Witchfinder General)
The Devils Summit