"The Last Spire"

By Earthdog and Doomvixen

All good things come to an end eventually and so with great sadness we have to say goodbye to one of doom metal longest-serving bands.....Cathedral. The band has been one of the most unpredictable and colorful bands since bombarding our eardrums with the doom monolithic monster that was their début album 'Forest of Equilibrium' released way back in 1991. The first thing you will notice is there is no Dave Patchett artwork this time around, which is bizarre given his history with the band but that gripe is soon forgotten once you press play on this beast of an album. This album is Cathedral at their heaviest and most doomy but one word springs to mind very quickly while listening to this...........EVIL! This album is certainly one of the band's darkest offerings, an at times bleak, sinister affair with all the trademarks which made the band great in the first place. There are slow, grinding riffs and it has a nihilistic approach that hasn't been heard from the band since the release of the "Endtyme" album. Indeed this is a sad album that seems to encapsulate everything this band has ever represented, musically.

However ,there isn't much of the stoner-metal and lava-lamp style they became fixated with during their mid-career period and there is none of the quirky, proggy sounds that offended many a listener on their 'Guessing Game' album. You could say they have taken the easy way out and have given the fans exactly what they want but in this case, a more perfect recipe would be impossible to find. This is the ideal way for Cathedral to bow out of the doom scene and while I struggle to type this, I can't help but feel overcome with emotion.

From the opening 'Entrance to Hell' which bleeds into the 12 minute 'Pallbearer' it is pretty obvious, this is a serious slab of doom on display. It is only on the very short goof off that is 'The Last Laugh' that there is any lifting of the overwhelming bleak atmosphere. The sound on 'The Last Spire' neatly sits halfway between the slow grind of their debut album and the crunch of songs like 'Ride' from 'The Eternal Mirror' album. Frontman Lee Dorrian delivers one of his best vocal performances, too. His voice is pure Dorrian but with an angry sneer this time around and that seems to suit the songs perfectly. The opening 15 minutes of this album should win you over, if it doesn't win you over instantly. The guitar sound is cleaner than a lot of other Cathedral albums but that also suits some of the strange, twisting, mutating riffage that verges on the experimental at times. 'Pallbearer' is a punishing doom dirge with an interlude of female vocals being the only break in this mournful epic of a tune. The following 'Cathedral of the Damned' is much shorter but no less punishing. Fuzzy riffage is unleashed and Lee Dorrian sounds like he is drowning himself in mud with a over-the-top growl, the likes of which he hasn't done much in the past. For the most part, this is a mid-tempo catchy rocker compared with the rest of the devastating doom this album has in its grooves.

'Tower Of Silence' which most people will already know from the video is another haunting doom track with the energy of an overweight slug with an addiction to Valium. Well, it is not that slow really but by Cathedral standards, this is a painfully bleak piece. 'Infestation of Grey Death' introduces keyboards and acoustics for what might be the albums most "70's rock" moment. The band has always given a nod to the obscure heavy-prog acts of the early 70's and this is another one of those moments while remaining in the total doom tradition. The song is kind of awkward, a stumbling demented beast with uncanny riffage and the break in the track about halfway into this 9 minute track is simply orgasmic. If this album does one thing, it has a broader range of doom stylings than the usual Cathedral album. 'Infestation of Grey Death' oddly sounds a little like My Dying Bride in places.

'An Observation' is another 10, almost 11 minute slow, torture-filled epic. Its long and slow but with everything from prog to psych-rock thrown into the melting pot. Did we mention, this is an evil sounding album? Well this is one of the albums most occult-driven tracks that shows why they are such an influence on so many bands. The comedy relief part of the album 'The Last Laugh' is followed by the albums last cut, 'This Body, Thy Tomb' which couldn't be a better and a more fitting way to bring this album and the band to its demise. This track based around pounding drums and a gruelling, punishing main riff beats the listener into pulp for all of its 9 minutes before tricking you into a false ending before bringing the hammer down with one final blast of apocalyptic doom that brings this album to a very emotional close. When it is all over, it is impossible not to get emotional about this. It is an emotional album anyway but knowing this is where it all ends is just too much to think about. Many doomsters thought Lee and the boys didn't have it in them for another gargantuan doom album but they have proven everyone wrong. A near perfect ending to one of doom metals most important bands. R.I.P .....9/10.