CATHEDRAL  The VIIth Coming  CD   (Secret Records)   11.99

By the time 2002's The VIIth Coming rolled around, Cathedral had moved on from the stylistic experimentation of their first few titles and found themselves settled into a well-worn, well-earned sound and groove (and I mean groove) that is undoubtedly their own. Another killer cover piece done up by Dave Patchett who continues to evoke the phantasmal mysteries of Hieronymus Bosch's Garden Of Earthly Delights triptych better than any other living artist. A perfect visual accompaniment to what was developing into a more and more unique fusion of early Black Sabbath, Celtic Frost-level riffcrush, and British progressive rock (a la Uriah Heep). I'm no fair-weather fan of Cathedral, a perfectly happy man when I'm listening to these bellbottomed goons simply locking into that sweet, sweet neo-Sabbathian blues-groove and gnarly millennial psychedelia that they've mastered since Dorrian got the show rolling. It's rare if ever that you hear these guys dipping back into the excruciating, pioneering, ponderous heaviness of stuff like Forest Of Equilibrium, but I could care less. When they drop a riff, it hits like an ICBM. See opener "Phoenix Rising", which takes that peculiar mixture of 70's rock riffiness, mega-lurching doom metal, Dorrian's kind of off-key vocals, and titanic buildups that makes Cathedral what they are, and just flatten you with it. Stuff like that feels like a return to the rockslide heaviness of Forest Of Equilibrium. It's a beast of a disc, like most of their stuff approaching the hour-long mark, but I can't imagine them abbreviating any of these tunes; when a riff hits that right groove, it’s bulldozer time, and they can keep going with it for as long as they want. Again, I'm a sucker for all of their stuff in its different guises, so I'm just stoked to be able to soak into a whole ten songs of this roiling low-end acid-metal.

On their seventh album (natch) you get some more upbeat stuff like "Resisting The Ghost", "Iconoclast"'s iron-clad death n' roll chugathon (and incredible bass tone, Christ), and the rampaging "Nocturnal Fist" that pulls out some vintage NWOBHM and even a smattering of old punk energy, alongside proggier sludgewaves such as the absurdly demolishing "Skullflower" (which I can't help but wonder if it's a reference to our favorite UK guitar psych-noise obliterator), the classical-guitar and mellotron tinged "Aphrodite’s Winter", "The Empty Mirror"' and "Black Robed Avenger" both offering anguish-filled ultra-doom and evolution into masterful Sabb'ed out power-groove and magisterial finales, that completely warped glue-storm "Halo Of Fire" that ends the album in a blizzard of dried amanita muscaria, the music often launching into some more soulful signing alongside those gritty signature growls and some slightly more offbeat, almost Tom Warrior-esque groaning (and occasional oughs). These songs open up into some brief but blazing vistas of winding lead guitar and howling feedback and bleary-eyed sun-blasted trippiness. The Iommi-esque slo-mo crush on that former song in particular really grinds my spine down, and there's a number of similar passages scattered throughout VIIth Coming, primo eruptions of dark and glacial trad-doom riffage fused to the spacey structures of Cathedral''s songwriting. It's also an overall more ecstatic affair than the glum trudge of contemporaries Electric Wizard, I can hear the band having fun even as they tear down mountains. Ancient Western mythology, 20th century magick, folk horror, crustpunk aggression, Aleister Crowley / Thelema, all subjects tinkered with throughout. Adding to the dozy, lysergic vibe, the aforementioned mellotron and electronic keyboard accompaniment is right up front and scratches more than one itch, especially when the music weaves those keys around some of the quirkier riffwork and bass-driven instrumental passages; there's long been a British space-rock influence behind Cathedral's crunch, but this album feels like it fleshes that stuff out a little more than usual, with some of those electronic voices rippling a little further into the past, at least mid-80s era synthwork and choral-like pads that feel a little archaic (in the best way possible).

Ugh. It's all so HEAVY. The guitar tone, that gutchurner bass sound, Dorrian's dazed snarl, the myriad gravitational time changes, oh man. My only real criticism is that some of these songs seem too rushed, ending too early, but again this is a nearly hour long album - something's gotta give. But it's gargantuan apocalyptic boogie for days, man.

This new 2021 UK import CD reissue comes in a gatefold digi-sleeve with foldout poster insert.

Track Samples:
Sample : Resisting the Ghost
Sample : The Empty Mirror
Sample : Congregation of Sorcerers