Cathedral - The Last Spire | Review

The end is nigh as the tenth and final LP, ‘The Last Spire’, from legendary doomsayers Cathedral lands upon us. After 23 years of paralysing doom, twee ‘70s psych-ventures, heavy prog-rock and everything in-between, the band formed by former Napalm Death frontman and Rise Above Records shaman, Lee Dorrain, is now laid to rest. And if there was ever a monument erected in memoriam of Cathedral’s eccentric existence, ‘The Last Spire’ stands a towering epitaph.
By far the heaviest Cathedral record since the highly regarded debut, ‘Forest of Equilibrium’, the doomed four-piece has focused on conveying a deep-rooted sense of finality. ‘Entrance to Hell’ sets an ominous tone through the calls of “Bring out your dead!”—without a hint of Monty Python’s humour—and the all-too-familiar toll of a church bell which summons the tombstone-heavy ‘Pallbearer’. During the tempo changes of ‘Pallbearer’ it becomes evident that Cathedral refuse to be tied to a languorous pace on this record and both ‘Cathedral of the Damned’ and ‘Tower of Silence’ which follow are mid-paced stompers teeming with some of the greatest doom riffs ever cut to tape.
Founding guitarist Gaz Jennings, who is one of the classiest (underrated) players in rock and metal, hurls slab after slab of monolithic doom riffs on top of the graven earth laid by bassist Scott Carlson (Repulsion) and drummer Brian Dixon throughout ‘The Last Spire’. And to match the sinister nature of the music, Dorrain supplies the requisite vocal unease and his lyrics take a darker turn while remaining socially aware, tackling, for instance, the perils of war—a classic doom theme—on the Celtic Frost-flecked ‘Infestation of Death’.
The masterful understanding of dynamics that Cathedral has cultured over its illustrious tenure is even more striking in the context of what is, ostensibly, a true doom record. ‘An Observation’ goes beyond the typical lengthy trudge of slow and suffocating, as Cathedral’s prog undertones infest the mournful arrangements and the band throws one of its signature curveballs: a Camel-esque keyboard break that ends up setting the controls for the heart of the weird. And as the last note fades on this bittersweet finale, ‘This Body, Thy Tomb’—a fitting sonic summation of the band’s entire career—it becomes clear that, unlike bands that continues to fester long after their expiry date, this British institution has gone out on top, sounding as tasteful and timeless as ever. R.I.P.

Dean Brown

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Dean Brown is a metal scribe based in Ireland. He is currently a contributing editor to the North American cultural magazine Popmatters and he regularly throws words for a number of other reputable loud noise publications such as metal,,,, amongst others. He has a strong affinity for music that shakes souls and leaves debilitating tinnitus in its wake and such obsession has left him financially and medically crippled, but he wouldn’t have it any other way. Follow Dean on twitter @reus85