Cathedral (band)

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Cathedral band.JPG
Cathedral performing live at the Wacken Open Air festival in 2009
Background information
Origin Coventry, England
Years active 1989–2013
Associated acts
Past members Lee Dorrian
Garry Jennings
Brian Dixon
Scott Carlson
Adam Lehan
Mark Griffiths
Ben Mochrie
Mike Smail
Mark Ramsey Wharton
Leo Smee

Cathedral were a doom metal band from Coventry, England. [2] The group gained attention upon release of its debut album, Forest of Equilibrium (1991), which is considered a classic of the genre. [3] However, the band's sound evolved quickly and began to adopt characteristics of 1970s metal, hard rock and progressive rock. After releasing ten full-length albums and touring extensively for over two decades, Cathedral broke up after the release of The Last Spire in 2013.

Doom metal is an extreme subgenre of heavy metal music that typically uses slower tempos, low-tuned guitars and a much "thicker" or "heavier" sound than other heavy metal genres. Both the music and the lyrics intend to evoke a sense of despair, dread, and impending doom. The genre is strongly influenced by the early work of Black Sabbath, who formed a prototype for doom metal with songs such as "Black Sabbath", "Children of the Grave", "Electric Funeral" and "Into the Void". During the first half of the 1980s, a number of bands from England, the United States and Sweden defined doom metal as a distinct genre.

<i>Forest of Equilibrium</i> 1991 studio album by Cathedral

Forest of Equilibrium is the debut album of the British doom metal band Cathedral, released in 1991 on Earache Records. It is considered a classic of its genre, doom metal. Forest of Equilibrium was notably inducted into Decibel Magazine's Hall of Fame in February 2006 being the 12th inductee for the Decibel Hall of Fame.

Hard rock is a loosely defined subgenre of rock music that began in the mid-1960s, with the garage, psychedelic and blues rock movements. It is typified by a heavy use of aggressive vocals, distorted electric guitars, bass guitar, drums, and often accompanied with keyboards.



Early history and The Forest of Equilibrium (1989–1992)

In 1989, Lee Dorrian left Napalm Death because he was reportedly tiring of the punk scene and did not like the death metal direction which Napalm Death was taking. [4] Cathedral was formed after Lee Dorrian and Mark Griffiths (a Carcass roadie) met and discussed their love for bands like Black Sabbath, Candlemass, Pentagram, Trouble, and Witchfinder General. The band was founded in 1989 by Dorrian, Griffiths and Garry Jennings (formerly of thrash metal band Acid Reign). [2] Dorrian was the only founding member to remain with Cathedral for its duration, although Jennings' departure ultimately proved to be temporary.

Lee Dorrian British singer

Lee Dorrian is an English singer, best known as a former member of Napalm Death and later frontman of Cathedral. He is currently the vocalist of With the Dead and Septic Tank.

Napalm Death British grindcore band

Napalm Death are a British extreme metal band formed in Meriden, West Midlands, England, in 1981. While none of its original members remain in the group since December 1986, the lineup of vocalist Mark "Barney" Greenway, bassist Shane Embury, guitarist Mitch Harris and drummer Danny Herrera has remained consistent of the band's career since 1992's Utopia Banished, although, from 1989 to 2004, Napalm Death were a five-piece band after they added Jesse Pintado as the replacement of one-time guitarist Bill Steer; following Pintado's departure, the band reverted to a four-piece rather than replace him.

Punk subculture anti-establishment culture

The punk subculture includes a diverse array of ideologies, fashion, and other forms of expression, visual art, dance, literature and film. It is largely characterised by anti-establishment views and the promotion of individual freedom, and is centred on a loud, aggressive genre of rock music called punk rock. Its adherents are referred to as "punks", also spelled "punx" in the modern day.

Cathedral released The Forest of Equilibrium through Earache and then signed with Columbia. Cathedral's experience on Columbia was described by Dorrian as "surreal". [5] As Dorrian explained,

Earache Records is an independent record label, music publisher and management company founded by Digby Pearson, based in Nottingham, England with offices in London and New York. It helped to pioneer extreme metal by releasing early grindcore and death metal records between 1988 and 1994. The label roster has since diversified into more mainstream guitar music, working with bands such as Rival Sons, The Temperance Movement, Blackberry Smoke and The White Buffalo. The company also hosted the 'Earache Express' stage at Glastonbury Festival in 2017 and will be hosting 'The Earache Factory' at Boomtown Fair 2018.

Columbia Records American record label; currently owned by Sony Music Entertainment

Columbia Records is an American record label owned by Sony Music Entertainment, a subsidiary of Sony Corporation of America, the North American division of Japanese conglomerate Sony. It was founded in 1887, evolving from the American Graphophone Company, the successor to the Volta Graphophone Company. Columbia is the oldest surviving brand name in the recorded sound business, and the second major company to produce records. From 1961 to 1990, Columbia recordings were released outside North America under the name CBS Records to avoid confusion with EMI's Columbia Graphophone Company. Columbia is one of Sony Music's four flagship record labels, alongside former longtime rival RCA Records, as well as Arista Records and Epic Records.

We weren’t deliberately trying to be pop stars or anything like that, so playing that game just felt very surreal. We weren't exactly comfortable with it. We were an underground band one minute and the next minute they were trying to present us as the next Black Crowes. Can you imagine recording Forest of Equilibrium and a major label wanted to sign you on the strength of that? It was fairly bizarre. I guess heavy music was reaching some kind of pinnacle back then. Death metal had reached its pinnacle back then – at least its creative pinnacle so maybe they saw us as being the next step after that. [5]

Death metal is an extreme subgenre of heavy metal music. It typically employs heavily distorted and low-tuned guitars, played with techniques such as palm muting and tremolo picking, deep growling vocals, aggressive, powerful drumming featuring double kick and blast beat techniques, minor keys or atonality, abrupt tempo, key, and time signature changes, and chromatic chord progressions. The lyrical themes of death metal may invoke slasher film-stylized violence, religion, occultism, Lovecraftian horror, nature, mysticism, mythology, philosophy, science fiction, and politics, and they may describe extreme acts, including mutilation, dissection, torture, rape, cannibalism, and necrophilia.

The major label and Earache years (1993–2001)

Cathedral's major label debut, The Ethereal Mirror, was noted by Jason Birchmeier of Allmusic for its experimentation, upbeat tempos, and groove-laden guitar riffs. [6] After releasing The Ethereal Mirror in 1993, Cathedral was dropped by Columbia the following year. The band resumed its relationship with Earache Records, which lasted until 2001. During this time, Cathedral released four full-length albums that continued to explore faster rhythms and 1970s-hard rock-influenced guitar riffs before returning to a relatively slow cadence for Endtyme in 2001. [7]

<i>Endtyme</i> album by cathedral

Endtyme is the sixth full-length album by British doom metal band Cathedral. Released in 2001, this album is a return to the more dark and gloomy sound found on their first album.

Switching labels and three more albums (2002–2010)

Cathedral signed with Spitfire Records and released The VIIth Coming . After releasing a single album on Spitfire, Cathedral signed to Nuclear Blast for their final three albums. These albums included the "inspired" and "quirky" but "uneven" The Garden of Unearthly Delights , [8] the double-disc The Guessing Game , which was touted as the "most psychedelic, progressive material in the band's entire catalog" [9] and the "true doom" of the band's farewell album, The Last Spire . [10]

Spitfire Records record label

Spitfire Records was a subsidiary of Eagle Rock Entertainment located in New York City, United States.

<i>The VIIth Coming</i> 2002 studio album by Cathedral

The VIIth Coming is the seventh full-length album by British doom metal band Cathedral. It was released on 5 November 2002 via Spitfire.

Nuclear Blast German record label

Nuclear Blast is an independent record label and mail order record distributor with subsidiaries in Germany, the United States and Brazil. The record label was founded in 1987 by Markus Staiger in Germany. Originally releasing hardcore punk records, the label moved on to releasing albums by melodic death metal, grindcore, industrial metal, power metal and black metal bands, as well as tribute albums. It also distributes and promotes two post-hardcore/metalcore labels, SharpTone Records, focused on American scene, and Arising Empire, focused more on European bands such as Novelists, Imminence, Cold Snap and While She Sleeps.

The Last Spire and split (2011–present)

While Cathedral had contemplated disbanding in the past, most recently after the release of The Garden of Unearthly Delights in 2006, [4] on 6 February 2011, Cathedral announced that they would disband after the release of The Last Spire [11] in April 2013. Dorrian explained that "It's simply time for us to bow out. Twenty one years is a very long time and it's almost a miracle that we managed to come this far!" [12] Cathedral played their last show in Perth, Western Australia during the Soundwave 2012 tour. [13]

Shortly before the release of The Last Spire, Dorrian told Noisecreep that there will never be a Cathedral reunion, and called that idea "absolutely stupid." [14] Guitarist Gaz Jennings added that chances of a Cathedral reunion are "very, very slim", and that he "just can't see" it happening in the future. He also stated that Dorrian has "moved on" and does not want to be involved in a reunion. [15]

Three out of four of the final members of Cathedral reformed the band Septic Tank not soon after Cathedral's break up. [16]


Cathedral's releases have been marked by sharp shifts in style. While Forest of Equilibrium was firmly entrenched in a slow, heavy doom sound, elements of 1970s metal and groovier riffs entered its sound beginning with the Soul Sacrifice EP. [17] By the time that The Ethereal Mirror was released, the band had incorporated references to 1970s music, such as the disco influences heard on "Midnight Mountain". [18]

As Dorrian explains, the band's original sound was a product of the immediate musical environment combined with the band members' influences:

When we first started, the music of Cathedral was a lot more extreme than it is now, a lot more morose and depressing, because that's how we felt at the time. We'd all come out of the death metal scene, or the grindcore scene or whatever, and I was just as much into the slower stuff as I was into the faster stuff. I just wanted to do something a bit different, so we took all our influences like Vitus and Pentagram and the Obsessed and stuff and decided to take that kind of music one step further, bring it into the 90's, make it more extreme, more heavy and downtuned than any of those bands had done before. That was our first and foremost ambition, and I think we probably achieved that when we did our first album. [19]

Beginning with the Soul Sacrifice EP, the band began to incorporate a diverse array of 1970s influences into its sound. [20] With 2001's Endtyme, Cathedral re-introduced the slower, doomy elements that had not been as prevalent on its previous four albums.

The Guessing Game represented another development in the band's sound, with Cathedral's progressive and psychedelic influences coming to the forefront. For Dorrian, the album's direction was a result of the fact that:

This time on the record it seemed like we've come to the point where we feel confident enough to bring these influences to the fore. Because we also feel that we've got nothing to lose as well, after all this time. We've got nothing to prove as much as we've got nothing to lose. I just think we went for it, we didn't really think too hard about what the consequences would be, but I don’t think we went stupidly too far into the realms of progressive rock myself, it's just the right balance between that and everything else that the band's about. [21]

Remarking on Cathedral's penchant for evolving its sound, Dorrian said:

I just think it’s important for a band like us, if we have all these influences and aspects of things we like, to be a bit more adventurous and make it interesting for ourselves as much as the audience. It might confuse a lot of people, I understand that, but that’s not a deliberate intention at all. We just want to make good music to the best of our abilities. We’re not the most musical band in the world, I admit that. We just want to push ourselves and stretch ourselves and contain an element of freedom of expression in our sound. I guess that’s why we look back on a lot of older bands, because they were so unrestricted, and things are too restricted and categorized these days. If you think about a band like Cathedral, how would you categorize us? I don’t know. I don’t know what box you could put us in, and that’s something I’m quite happy with. Try and put me in a box and I jump out of it. [22]


Final line-up

Former members

Live musicians


Cathedral %28band%29


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