Mysterious UK doom unit Lychgate bring bleak new levels of creepiness, eerieness

LychgateI love to be totally off-my-ass surprised by a metal record and its situation, and that’s turned into something that doesn’t happen nearly as often as I would like it to these days. That’s likely a product of oversaturation, some bands not really being all that ready to make records, and labels just signing whatever the fuck will get them some money.

When I got an e-mail from Gilead Media about the release of the debut record from Lychgate, I was excited because I trust the label and know they put out good music. It also made me seek out a little bit more about the Cambridge-based band that I didn’t know a lot about beyond their band name and minor details about their sound. Gilead Media certainly has a nice range of sounds that go from rugged black metal to more atmospheric bands in that same sub-genre, and also some sludge and some hardcore-influenced sounds. From what I understood about Lychgate, this seemed to be a venture in an entirely new direction, and now that I’ve heard and fully absorbed the band’s self-titled debut, that line of thinking is confirmed, and it’s an exciting new venture for the label (Mordgrimm will handle the release in the UK).

Lychgate coverIf someone had played me the Lychgate record before I knew anything about them and asked me to pick what label it’s on, I might go with Debemur Morti or Profound Lore, because this band seems right up their alleys. But Gilead Media jumped on these guys, and much to their credit, they’re going to be the ones recognized for bringing this creepy, creaky, spirited doom metal band to the States and exposing one of the more interesting outfits from this sub-genre I’ve heard in a while. They also have a bit of black metal eeriness in their sound, which adds yet another level of darkness. This Lychgate record taught me two things: Even a sub-genre that seems flooded with content can pull out something exhilarating and rewarding when the artists behind it have a true passion and course of action that makes you realize they mean business. Second, never try to guess what a strong label is up to, because they’ll always find a way to pull out the stops and surprise you.

Lychgate actually started as Archaicus, led solely by Vortigern, who handles guitars, chants, and the huge organs you hear haunting this record. Joining him now are Greg Chandler on guitars and vocals, who you might know better from his role with mighty doom merchants Esoteric, bassist Aran (Lunar Aurora), and drummer Tom Vallely (Omega Centauri). They’re a mighty team, and their sound practically reeks of early ’90s British doom, which is a huge plus for a listener like me, and those aforementioned organs add an insane level of dark soulfulness, making you feel like you need to genuflect before them to avoid whatever curse they plan to put on your head. Don’t expect their mercy.

“The Inception” is your dusty introduction track, that lets its horrible spirit into the room and gives it time to find a nice corner of your room to scare your senseless. “Resentment” unfurls slowly, with dark riffs, allowing cold, dusty drapery to crash over the windows and inspires a creaky, weary ache in your soul. Chandler’s growls are harsh and deep, and once the organs spill all over, things are damn near liturgical. “Against the Paradoxical Guild” is more fierce and screamy, showing some of their black metal tendencies and savagery, with mournful guitar lines and blistering drums. “In Self Ruin” brings back the giant chest heaves of organ, that sound downright ritualistic, and again we’re leveled with a heavier approach and more aggressive tempo. “Sceptre to Control the World” has an old-school death metal bend, and yet there are dreary, doomy sentiments included, along with a melody that evokes sorrow.

“Intermezzo,” as I’m sure you guessed, is an interlude track, whirry and airy, also ghostlike. “Triumphalism” is one of the shortest tracks on the record and is punchy and to the point, getting in, creating a body count, and moving on to the next unfortunate household. “Dust of a Gun Barrel” has  Deathspell Omega-style experimentation, with its slurry, hypnotic melodies and creaked growls. The whole song is off-kilter and unsettling, and if it doesn’t chill you to the bone, you might already be deceased. Closer “When Scorn Can Scourge No More” has that aforementioned ’90s feel big time, bringing back thoughts of old Paradise Lost and Cathedral, and its doom-encrusted sensibility, shoegazey dreaming, and intoxicating grimness is a great way to bring this record crashing to its conclusion.

Lychgate is another tremendous find for Gilead Media, and this band should be one of the more exciting doom projects going forward. They have a personality few others in the tidal wave of doom can boast, and I’m sure experience and hunger are primary reasons for that. This is a really strong debut that hopefully is the first of many terrifying chapters to come.

For more on the band, go here: http://lychgate.eu/

To buy the album, go here: http://www.gileadmedia.net/store/

For more on the label, go here: http://www.gileadmedia.net/

Fell Voices’ third album ‘Regnum Saturni’ takes atmospheric tumult to new heights

RS Cover Final
Music has the ability to heal, even when it’s vitriolic and furious, because it knows where to find your inner chaos, greet it, stamp it out, and give you a breath of fresh air. There’s something good about being able to get lost in chaos and overcome by swarming noise.

I constantly turn to the noisiest, most sprawling music possible when I feel like I need a mental and spiritual lift, and even if I’m angry or agitated, this route seems to work better than when I try to turn to, say, violent death metal. I want to let the tension release slowly so I can feel the pressure subside and regain my wits about me. It’s a reason why a band such as Fell Voices has meant a lot more to me. They’re than just a band that makes incredible music; their work also acts as catharsis and psychological therapy for me, and everything they’ve put out so far has spoken to me from this angle.

Now comes the band’s ambitious, challenging new album “Regnum Saturni,” a tumultuous, atmospherically driven new effort comprised of three epics that spill over a double LP. It runs a little over 66 minutes, and every second of this collection is gripping and artistically rewarding. The whole thing was recorded live, so you’re hearing exactly how the band envisions the songs to be born, live, and fade away and weren’t put together piecemeal like most records are. That adds extra spark and dynamic energy to “Regnum Saturni” and makes for one of Fell Voices’ most exciting releases to date. In fact, they just seem to be getting better and better, building peaks upon peaks, and now three full-length albums into their run, it’s time for them to be recognized as one of America’s most exciting and adventurous black metal bands by a greater group of people. If you still haven’t heard Fell Voices, what is holding you back? Now is the time.

The band is a trio and remain fairly mysterious as far as full names go (I don’t get why more people don’t opt for that since people on the Internet are fucking nuts), with Joseph on bass and vocals, Tucker on guitars, and drummer Mike (also of Ruin Lust, who we’ll be talking about soon) on drums and vocals. Their musical connection has grown more steady and cosmic as time has gone on, and as great as their untitled 2010 release was, this one is superior by far and is truly indicative of a band at its creative apex.

“Flesh From Bone” opens with a long drone section that sounds like what an alarm system might if you were under the influence of some thick syrup. Then the shimmery noise bursts open with a thunderous assault, shrieks that are buried underneath the tidal waves of noise, and a furious sequence of punishment takes over. Once the panic subsides a bit, synth murk emerges, and a gothy, eerie spirit arises and floats over. Doom-laced melodies take over from there, and that continues until drone rises again like a sleepy curse.

The drone continues into “Emergence,” where a swarm takes flight that’s packed Armageddon sirens, and the noise pulsates and quivers until the metallic explosions kick up again about three minutes into the track, eventually letting a groove set in that the band rides to fiery glory. Doom drama bubbles again to the surface, wild howls and shrieks rip into any serenity you might feel, and primal melodies drub and bash you against cement walls. The guitar lines repeat and nearly achieve a hypnotic state, and the buzzing again returns and whips the song into a lather as is rinses away and sets the stage for the closer.

“Dawn” continues (and ends) the story with the same drone line that holds the entire piece together, and the early minutes are warm like young sunbeams on your cheeks. But something seems amiss in the midst of this song, like that early morning calm is about to be ripped asunder by tragedy, and when the hammer does fall, a world-crushing melody swells up and boils over onto the song, with distant shrieks swirling into cascading guitars. Sorrow and pain seem to bleed from the seams of this piece, almost as if the composition isn’t big enough to handle all the emotional tumult, yet it perseveres and carries the band into the hellish vortex that drives the song to its final isolated screams and concluding noise glaze.

Fell Voices know how to channel their inner turmoil and energy, and clearly every time I need their records for some much-needed catharsis, they over-deliver. “Regnum Saturni” is another in a line of incredible documents that stretch the boundaries of black metal and what you know extreme music and thinking to be. They excel at cosmic atmosphere, violent underpinnings, and murky chasms, and they’ve never made music as gigantic and compelling as this. And chances are they’ll top themselves next time around.

For more on the band, go here: http://fellvoices.blogspot.com/

To buy the album, go here: http://www.gileadmedia.net/store/

For more on the label, go here: http://www.gileadmedia.com/

Arckanum return with visions of the end, tribute to wolves on new ‘Fenris Kindir’

Arckanum_promo_2013_(c)_Darby_LahgerSo, on your list of ways you hope you die, how far up is “devoured by giant wolf”? Pretty high up there? Maybe not so much, for some of you less adventurous types? Whatever way, it’s going to happen to us all, so why not go out in the most violent, uncomfortable manner possible, am I right? OK, let’s move on. I’m uncomfortable now.

All of this is in reference to “Fenris Kindir” (Fenris’ kin) the eighth record from Swedish metal heathens Arckanum, a record that’s a tribute to the Norse legend Fenris, a giant wolf that is predicted to break free at the climax of Ragnarok and devour the sun and moon. Mankind will be busy being burned to death and drowning in oceans, but for anyone who survives all of that hell, there’s this giant wolf with which to contend who, for all intents and purposes, is going to turn out the lights. For good. It is to him these songs are dedicated, and the album is inspired by the leader of the wolves and devourer of large celestial bodies, one of which is completely engulfed in flames.

SUA 049LP.inddI reference Arckanum as a we above, and that’s not really accurate. I tend to do that with band names, but really, all of this is the work and imaginative drive of Shamaatae, who has driven this ship from its emergence more than two decades ago. In that time, he has put out a collection of stirring, often forestal-sounding platters of raw, atmospheric black metal that’s slowly gotten the attention of the rest of the metal world. His work now is firmly ensconced on the mighty Season of Mist label, but it took him a while to get there, putting out debut “Fran Marder” on Necropolis and continuing on with imprints such as Debemur Morti and Regain before landing where he is now. The output has been stirring and ambitious, always worthy of your undivided attention, and the work he does on “Fenris Kindir” certainly is a worthy addition to the already bustling catalog.

The origin of Arckanum’s story is based on chaos-gnosis and anti-cosmic Satanism, a subject you can go ahead and research yourself because we try to stay away from spiritual issues here. I care about metal and don’t really care about stuff like this even if it directly affects or inspires the music. I just want to know what the records sound like. But recently Shamaatae has gone to exploring more Norse topics, such as what you’ll find on this record and what he did on “Helvitismyrkr” that explore old mythology and reveal the more violent, chaotic, and thornier side of these legends. Also, the music is the polar opposite of what someone like Amon Amarth has done with the subject matter. Arckanum are far more dangerous and deadly, and you’ll know that from the moment the record begins that you aren’t in for glorious, movie-style adventures. You’re going to bleed and pay the price instead.

“Fenris Kindir” works like a single piece of music, as each track flows into the one that follows, and we get a brief introduction with “Fenris Kindir Grua” to set the stage and the mood. “Tungls Tjugari” opens the brutality in earnest with charged-up riffs, chugging melodies, and heathen-like screams and growls that sound like they were transported from the origins of mankind. It’s then into “Dolgrinn” that has a mean, classic black metal sound and really interesting growled phrasing. Really cool delivery. I don’t know what he’s on about because I don’t speak the old Norse tongue, but I’m paying attention nonetheless. “Hatarnir” rips open with a thick bassline, thrashy, pulverizing riffs, and punk-fueled intensity. There is garbling at the end that very well could be backward messaging, but again, not speaking the language, I could be wrong. Creepy either way. “Hamrami” is an interlude that has a Dark Ages aura, and it leads you into the second half of the record.

“Fenris Gangr” is punishing and aggressive, with dogs howling and a dark atmosphere unfurling and blanketing the land with darkness. “Vargold” is a strange piece that’s … I guess an instrumental? It’s made up of war chants, troops stomping, animals snarling, and human howls, but no actual music. “Angrboda” picks up the intensity from there, with a primitive black metal assault, menacing growls, eerie chanting, and noises that sound like they were field recorded in an ancient dungeon. “Uskepna” rips back into muddy punk and monstrous intensity, with the vicious growls leading the way. “Spell” is smashing and raspy, with Shamaatae at his very beastly best vocally, ripping apart everything in front of him with a bloodthirst. Then the record ends on a bizarre note with the string-filled, totally strange “Solbols Sigr,” a track that’s an outro that ends very abruptly. But for some reason, it works for an Arckanum album.

Each Arckanum album brings its own twists and surprises, and this record follows that path nicely. It’s one of Shamaatae’s most cohesive, catchy albums, but it never sacrifices its raw intensity. “Fenris Kindr” is another strong entry in the Arckanum story, and even if I don’t relish the end game of utter chaos, I certainly can behind the spirit that makes this project so explosive.

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/Arckanum.Official

To buy the album, go here: http://e-shop.season-of-mist.com/en

For more on the label, go here: http://www.season-of-mist.com/

It’s about time! The Ocean finally make a damn record about the ocean on ‘Pelagial’

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Metal’s always been somewhat self-referential, to Darkthrone writing songs about the genre and decrying its fall from the past, to bands having songs that are practical anthems since they’re named after themselves, such as Iron Maiden, Motorhead, and Black Sabbath. But a band writing an album about themselves? That’s another level of ridiculous.

OK, that last bit actually isn’t the case with “Pelagial,” the latest record from German metal collective The Ocean. Yes, their new record is about a trip from the surface to the deepest depths of the ocean and what’s encountered along the way both physically and mentally, but it isn’t actually about the dudes in the band. Clear enough? But it’s still kind of amusing, at least on the surface, that the Ocean finally got around the making a record about the ocean, something you’d think they’d have tackled long ago. Instead, their ambitious, epic-length records have covered so much other ground, from the formation of the Earth itself to a sprawling critique of Christianity, that they haven’t gotten around to a full-blown adventure centered on their namesake.

the ocean coverIf you’ve been along for the entire ride with the Ocean, as I have, you know that this band doesn’t do anything small when it comes to their full-length records. They have multi-part albums that tie together, and even in the midst of one piece of something that acts as part of a larger whole, you’re still waylaid with material that, while exciting and astonishing musically, can be overwhelming. You definitely need to set time aside to absorb these albums as a whole. But “Pelagial” is a little different. Instead of the challenging lengths of most of their records, this one is a compact, digestible 53 minutes long. I listened to the whole thing the other day while cutting grass and actually needed to restart the album because it ended before my work. Very un-Ocean of them, but a welcome change. Now, this is the Ocean after all, so even when they serve up a smaller portion there’s a catch, and that comes in the form of “Pelagial” existing in two versions: one instrumental, the other with vocals. Other than the singing, they slightly differ sonically, but the band basically gives you two ways to absorb their sixth record. It’s up to you which one you like best.

Loic Rossetti is the frontman for the Ocean, and health problems were originally the reasons why there were no vocals for this album. Luckily he recovered, and the band decided on two versions of the album. He’s been a part of the band since 2009 and joined in time for the last jointed project, 2010’s “Heliocentric” and “Anthropocentric.” Rounding out this lineup are guitarists Robin Staps and Jonathan Nido, bassist Louis Jucker, and drummer Luc Hess. As we’ve come to expect, the band is tight and atmospheric, the music truly does resemble a trip to the depths of majestic bodies of water, and compositions resemble even more progressive steps in their playing and presentation. It’s a really well-made, fully realized idea that rewards the listener again and again.

We’re just going to talk about the version of the album with the vocals since the instrumental version is basically the same. You know, just without vocals. “Epipelagic” opens the record with bubbling, piano dripping, and the feeling like you’re being immersed in a giant body of water and on your long way down. “Mesopelagic: The Uncanny,” named for the Twilight zone of the ocean just off the Continental Shelf, begins gently and serenely before the song ignites, and Rossetti observes, “The light is fading,” which lets you imagine what you would be experiencing if you were on this ride. That spills into the three-part “Bathyalpelagic” section, taking its name from the Midnight zone off the Continental Slope. “Impasses” is the first section, and it has a progressive bend to its post-metal landscape, reminding a bit of a nastier Thrice; “The Wish in Dreams” is the middle portion, with thick, tricky compositions that keep you tied into the journey, while Rossetti wonders, “How much control do we have over what we wish for?” The final part of this triptych, “Disequillibrated” has a thornier opening that sounds like it’s black metal-inspired, and the aggression continues throughout its running time, eventually fading out in a claustrophobic, underwater signals that sound like being stuck in a submarine.

From there it’s onto the two-part “Abyssopelagic” portion, that is named for the section called The Abyss (obviously) that is off the Continental Rise and Ocean Basin. It begins with the “Boundless Vasts” part of the song, has cool melody lines and eventually some muscular sludging, and that turns into “Signals of Anxiety, a song that might remind you of ISIS or Intronaut with its muddy melodies and growly singing, but eventually it goes into mid-tempo territory and sounds ballad-like. “Hadopelagic” (the Trenches) also gets a two-part portion, starting with a liquidy intro cut that smashes into the 9:18 second section “Let Them Believe,” that is chunky, gruff, and really fucking good. “Demersal,” named for the second-to-lowest section of the ocean, is a 9:05 serving of pounding post-metal crushing that is fitting as our journey gets ready to reach its conclusion, and the drama is at its apex. Closer “Benthic: The Origin of Our Wishes,” takes us back to where everything originated. It’s thunderous, sludgy, and explodes with life, making it the proper sendoff for a journey back to where life started and the very thing from which this band takes its name and, for this record, its inspiration.

The Ocean never fail to keep us captivated, and they’ve found a way to be even more effective while remaining forward-thinking and ambitious at the same time. This is the record this band obviously had to make eventually (thematically, of course), and they did a pretty damn good job making it compelling, heavy, and dream-inducing. No idea what these guys will try next (the history of food-borne pathogens?), but chances are they’ll find a crazy way to make it awesome and top themselves again.

For more on the band, go here: http://www.theoceancollective.com/

To buy the album, go here: http://www.metalblade.com/theocean/

For more on the label, go here: http://www.metalblade.com/us/

Earthling mix thrash, death, black metal, … pretty much everything on ‘Dark Path’

EarthlingWith the weekend nearly in our grasp and another work week taking its physical and mental toll on our bodies (I see that as a good thing, by the way), now is the time to give into some savagery, heathenry, and things that are no good for you but that you like anyway. Everyone go get a beer. I’ll wait.

On that note, it seems a good a time as any to discuss “Dark Path,” the first full-length from Virginia’s Earthling and yet another rock-solid entry from Forcefield Records, who have kept us plenty busy this year. This four-headed pack of thrashy, death-minded, black metal-swallowing crushers have a good thing going here, and you know shit’s about to hit the fan almost instantly when, just as opener “Dark Path” erupts, guitarist/vocalist Alan Fary howls, “We’re on a dark fucking path.” That’s your introduction to the group, basically, and it all goes to the wolves from there, with riffy madness, savage crushing, and ill intentions designed to get you maimed. We’ve had a lot of heady material on this site lately, so it’s nice to have a record where you can put it on, open your favorite bottle of brew, and forget about all the shit around for you for 32 minutes.

Earthling coverAs I’m sure you can ascertain from what we’ve said so far, there is a refreshing lack of elegance from this band. They’re not here to make pretty noises, develop mind-melting soundscapes, or become the next great thinkers in metal. That’s not to insinuate they’re not capable of those things, but they seem like they’d rather shred faces than wax philosophical. They remind me a bit of the earliest crop of thrash bands who wanted to be loud and heavy, play devastating riffs, and punch you in the head. That’s the type of heavier metal I fell in love with growing up, and I get a sense of that same thing with Earthling. It’s one of the initial reasons their music appealed to me.

As far as the band goes, we’ve already mentioned Fary, whose low-level growls and shrieks carry the way vocally. At time he gets a little bit lost in the fray, and he’s not the most dynamic singer in metal, but he also comes off as someone who would sound better in a live setting. Or it could just be the rawness of their sound. Nonetheless, he gets the job done. Joining him are guitarist Praveen Chhetri, bassist Jordan Brunk, and drummer Brently Hilliard, all men with gentlemanly, proper names who throw all that out the window once they plug in and get their buzzsaw moving toward you. They’re a rather formidable unit that, as noted, employ a lot of thrash, death, and black metal but also toss in some blues licks and Southern rock fury into their madness. It’s a good time.

We’ve already mentioned the title cut, but there’s more to it than Fary’s monstrous declaration at the start. The song heads down a raw, chugging black metal path, the vocals are growl-filled, and later in the track some cold atmospherics rise up. “Resent” blasts off immediately, with strong leads guitar lines, gruff vocals, and some thrashy goodness. “Losing Sight” is where the record begins to change a bit musically, and it reveals a band that could go the route of, say, Inter Arma, and add some ingenuity to its chaos. “Losing Sight” starts viciously and aggressively, but eventually it melts into a Rush-like progressive jam section, some Southern rock thunder opens up, and even the cowbell gets tapped as the cut draws to a close.

“Solider of the Fortunate” has its doom-filled moments and strong guitar work, and as it moves on its way, it revisits thrash and speed. “Wilderness Throne” is another ambitious entry, as it starts with its head nodded directly toward classic black metal, but then we’re suddenly going down Southern rock roads. Then everything changes again, and the band pulls out its early ’80s-style power metal chops and makes the track one that could inspire you to pick up a sword and dream about dark castles. “Pass Into the Beyond,” your closer, is practically at-the-altar Iron Maiden worship, with its dual guitar interplay, some riveting basslines that roll over like Steve Harris was channeled, and even some death and thrash folded into this exhilarating crusher. It’s really awesome how this record builds in intensity and emotion as the songs get knocked off one by one, and by the time it’s over, the band practically has grown before your eyes. And ears.

Earthling show a ton of promise, and there’s no telling which way they’ll go in the future because they show so many influences here. Any path—thrash, death, black metal, another angle?—would suffice, and it’s cool how they mix in some different styles of rock and roll into the music to keep things interesting. This is a band worth paying attention to right now, because they’re already a damaging crew and it can only get better from here. “Dark Path” is a strong debut from a band you’re bound to hear a hell of a lot more about in the future.

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/earthling.virginia

To buy the album, go here: http://www.forcefieldrecords.org/store/

For more on the label, go here: http://www.forcefieldrecords.org/site/

Doom legends Cathedral blow out candle on influential career with ‘The Last Spire’

Ester Segarra
Obituaries never are a fun thing to write, and I don’t really think I need to explain why that is. You dread them, and when it’s time to actually put one together, it can be an arduous process of deciding what you want to say, how you want to say it, and making sure you include every detail you would want a person to know about your subject.

Sadly, we get to do this today, but it’s not really what you think. No one has passed away. Instead, the all-time great doom metal warriors Cathedral have closed their drapes for good, which I’m sure a lot of you know, and we’re finally getting to talk about their final will and testament, “The Last Spire.” Lee Dorrian, longtime frontman and leader of the band, announced before recording even started that this would be the last record of the band’s mighty, heavily influential run. He had done and seen enough as Cathedral, and the band’s mission had been met. What more was there to do? It’s also kind of fitting that the band rose around the same time that Margaret Thatcher’s reign in England was being stretched thin and now Cathedral are dying along with her. Certainly that wasn’t planned, but it sure is an interesting anecdote. And my guess is people will remember Cathedral a lot more fondly.

cathedral coverIt is a little unfortunate that Cathedral are ceasing their existence now, when doom metal is at an apex, as for the longest time they were one of the few bands faithfully pushing forward this sound, forged from a love of St. Vitus, Black Sabbath, Pentagram, and Pittsburgh’s own Dream Death. Their debut “Forest of Equilibrium” is an all-time classic, and from there, they’ve gone on to record nine more records that were mostly high quality (I couldn’t really get with 2010’s “The Guessing Game,” for one reason or another) and formed a sort of anthology study aid for newer bands who want to know what true doom is about and how to approach it. You can’t do better than Cathedral as a teacher and dark spiritual guide.

For this eight-track, nearly hour-long final chapter, Dorrian has a familiar cast alongside him, including guitarist Garry “Gaz” Jennings, drummer Brian Dixon, bassist Scott Carlson, also of Repulsion fame who played with the band around the time of touring for “The Ethereal Mirror,” and keyboard/Moog/mellotron player David Moore, who certainly sets a brooding atmosphere. They also bring in some notable, fitting guests such as Rosalie Cunningham, whose band Purson is one of the new budding stars of Dorrian’s Rise Above label, and Autopsy’s Chris Reifert, who lends his scary voice to “Cathedral of the Damned.”

The record opens with the eerie instrumental “Entrance to Hell,” where the plague-era cries of “Bring out your dead!” are repeated (or it’s a tip to “Monty Python”), as birds caw, and funeral bells ring. That leads right into the 11-minute “Pallbearer,” a song that shapes and shifts over its lengthy running time, sometimes driving slowly and violently, other times speeding up as if wanting to run full speed off a cliff. Dorrian’s howls of, “War, famine, drought, disease,” ties in the theme of death and demise, and later when he confidently howls, “Gravediggers of the world, unite!” you know he’s not cowering from the end. He’s reveling in it. “Cathedral of the Damned” is like a buzzsaw, with Celtic Frost-like sludgery, Sabbath-influenced guitar work, and slurry, heavy emotion hanging over the song. Of course, there’s Reifert at the tail end delivering his raspy, growly piece, and he’s just right at home on this one. “Tower of Silence” picks up where “Damned” leaves off, continuing to bore its claws into the ground and your psyche, with dizzying riffs, a driving tempo, and Dorrian declaring, “The sun no longer shines.”

The second half of the record kicks off with “Infestation of Grey Death” and its weird, strange keyboard-laced opening, acoustics, and odd passages. Honestly, this is the one song that I can’t totally get with. The vocals and the music feel like they’re trying to do two different things, and as many times as I’ve tried, I just can’t really get along with this one. “An Observation” changes that, however, and the 10:18-long epic starts slowly and eerily, dumping in thick strings and slow, creepy synth that sounds like it’s pulled from a gory B-grade sci-fi film, and the song goes toward psychedelics and prog metal. Before it’s over, it morphs into a thrashy, crunchy masher. “The Last Laugh” is a really bizarre interlude filled with deranged chuckling and Pink Floyd-style strangeness, and that leads us into “This Body, Thy Tomb,” the final Cathedral song ever. “I exist in this coffin,” Dorrian calls, almost like he’s commenting on the legacy of the band, and the song does its best to drop the lid on Cathedral, with Armageddon horns, a slow-driving, menacing pace, weird boiling noises that erupt toward the end of the song, and a spirited, charged-up psychedelic jam that brings the record, and this band’s run, to an end.

Doom fans owe a debt of gratitude to Cathedral for the great work they’ve done over more than two decades, and all of the group’s many disciples should genuflect in front of them for paving the way to their destinies. All great bands deserve to go out on top, absolutely on fire, but few ever do. Cathedral realized the time was right to call it an end, and they delivered one of their finest records of their history. All hail Cathedral. Doom metal wouldn’t be—and won’t be—the same without you.

For more on the band, go here: http://www.cathedralcoven.com/

To buy the album, go here: http://www.indiemerchstore.com/item/18771/

For more on the label, go here: http://www.riseaboverecords.com/

And here: http://www.metalblade.com/us/