Cathedral pay homage to, drop curtain on history with live ‘Anniversary’

All good things must come to an end, though musicians often don’t realize this and go on making music way, way longer than they should. But those people are not Lee Dorrian, and he doesn’t want to overstay his welcome. His fans are sad, I’m sure, but you have to respect that decision, especially since the genre he helped make great is blossoming.

Dorrian announced this would be the final for his band Cathedral as far as a live unit is concerned, and they would disband permanently next year when they release their 10th, and last, full-length effort “The Last Spire.” Yes, I know, bands reunite all the time. People swear they’ll never tour again and squeeze their fans for a “last-time-ever sojourn,” always going back on their word later. Hello, Ozzy Osbourne and Kiss. But what more do Dorrian and his band have to prove? On top of that, Dorrian runs the ultra-awesome doom-minded label Rise Above, home to acts such as Ghost, Blood Ceremony, Moss and Electric Wizard. So not only did Dorrian help shape the sound of doom metal, he’s also helping the new faces of the genre find an audience.

But Cathedral, as noted, aren’t going out with a whimper. We still have their final album to anticipate, and we have their recently released two-disc “Anniversary” to mark their 20-year reign. The band assembled in London last Dec. 3 in their original form to perform their landmark debut record “Forest of Equilibrium” (released in 1991 in Europe; 1992 in America) in its entirety, then they returned to the stage in their current form to serve up 12 more songs from their other nine albums (we actually get to hear what sounds like it’ll be the intro piece of “The Last Spire”). Basically, Cathedral performed two full shows, and anyone who had been a fan from the band from their beginning, it had to be a dream come true. For newer fans, it was an excellent history lesson. This double disc serves both of those purposes as well and sounds raw and majestic, allowing flaws to be heard, between-song tunings to remain, and Dorrian’s banter to complete the picture.

The eight cuts (although the album actually is seven, with the first two songs presented as one) from “Forest” sound incredible, almost as if they were re-created during the band’s heyday. Lone remaining original members Dorrian and Garry Jennings were joined once again by the lineup that helped make this doom touchstone, as guitarist Adam Lehan, bassist Mark Griffiths and drummer Mike Smail got their proper swansong. “Commiserating the Celebration” is a rush and a full serving of ’70s-influenced guitar soloing, leading toward the edgy, somewhat sludgy “Ebony Tears”; the gritty “Serpent Eve,” where Dorrian sounds a little shaky; devastating “Soul Sacrifice”; and the draining, slowly bleeding closer “Reaching Happiness, Touching Pain.” Any newcomer to doom metal who is unfamiliar with “Forest of Equilibrium” should consider this document required listening. Having this one-time-only live version of this masterpiece obviously qualifies as a priceless gem.

The second disc is more of a Cathedral best-of performance, though it oddly focuses on their early, glory years and their late-career resurgence. The middle of the band’s run is ignored in the setlist, and it’s up to the listener to decide if that’s a mistake. Depends on your tastes or, as some Cathedral fans may say, your tolerance. We get one track from their 2010 double album “The Guessing Game” in second-set opener “Funeral of Dreams,” a song I like much better translated live, and we get two nuggets from 2006’s “The Garden of Unearthly Delights,” the Celtic Frost-esque “Upon Azrael’s Wings” and the incredibly stupid, lone blemish “Corpsecycle.” Both 1993’s “The Ethereal Mirror” and 1995’s “The Carnival Bizarre” get the bulk of the attention, and those songs sound spectacular, most notably “Enter the Worms,” weird and trippy “Night of the Seagulls” and the crushing finale “Hopkins (Witchfinder General)” that practically ignites the crowd. They also do up the organ-heavy, ghostly “Cosmic Funeral,” found on both of their 1994 EPs “Cosmic Requiem” and “Statik Majik.”

It’s going to be a strange metal world without Cathedral an active part of it, and their contribution to doom in general is immeasurable. Hell, Dorrian even gave a ton to grind when he fronted Napalm Death and also etched a completeky different doom path with Teeth of the Lions Rule the Divine. You can be sure Rise Above’s artists will continue Cathedral’s mission well into the future, and even if we don’t have new material from the band after next year, we’ll have their catalog to visit. And we’ll have “Anniversary” to remind us how effective and mesmerizing Cathedral was as a live band. That’s not so bad at all.

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