The Last Spire
Rise Above Records
29 April 2013
by Rob McAuslan
Lee Dorrian’s Cathedral are a British metal institution, or at least they were; The Last Spire sees the end of one of our all-time great bands. This is it folks, there are no gigs to support this record whatsoever. There was a lot of talk at the band’s final live shows about what this album would sound like, and even whether the band would release it at all. Those of you hoping for a return to the sequinned flares and mirrorballs of the ‘Midnight Mountain’-era, and there were definitely some of you, will feel a little let-down by this.
What we get instead is a reaffirmation of what it is that drove Cathedral to exist in the first place, their shared love of heavy doom such as Candlemass, Pentagram and Trouble. That’s not to take anything away from the “disco doom” period – it had some excellent songs and brilliant videos, and arguably catapulted the band to a level of success they’d have had serious trouble reaching otherwise – but the heart of this outfit was always in the second part of that description, and The Last Spire is as serious a pure doom record as they’ve made since Forest Of Equilibrium.
There are still flashes of the experimentation of their previous work throughout The Last Spire. ‘Pallbearer’ showcases ex-Acid Reign (and perpetually underrated) guitar man Gaz Jennings’ breadth of feel across its twelve minutes, from leaden Sabbathian crush to delicate acoustic work and back via a brief but welcome burst of ‘Ride’-esque shuck and jive, whilst Purson’s Rosalie contributes her distinctive vocals as counterpoint to Dorrian’s, erm, ‘unique’ style. Love him or hate him, Lee is on fiery form on this album and impossible to ignore as he sneers and howls his way through the likes of ‘Cathedral Of The Damned’.
The album’s weak points are few, and mostly come in ‘Infestation Of Grey Death’. It never really gets going, and without Scott Carlson’s charging bass lines in the second half it’d be condemned to meander through some pretty uninspired verses for what feels like forever.
Watch the video to ‘Tower of Silence’ by Cathedral:
Fortunately for Cathedral’s lasting legacy, the last two songs on the record rank among their finest-ever work. ‘An Observation’ is over ten minutes of psych-soaked synths, depressive strings and piano interplay and cannoning, battering drums woven together by some of Dorrian’s most reflective lyrics to date, and takes a full-on acid-prog freakout diversion in its impressive stride towards the stomping, clattering end.
A short reprise of the opening “bring out your dead” call shuffles the final track in, and if this really is the last thing we ever hear from Cathedral it’s a fitting end. ‘This Body, Thy Tomb’ wields the dirtiest bass tone Carlson can conjure (and from a founder of Repulsion, you can bet that’s disgusting) alongside Jennings’ most brutalising guitar sound, backs the whole thing with Hammond organ and just beats you around the head and shoulders with pummelling, punishing, flat-out misery. The way the track comes piling back on after the short acoustic interlude about five minutes in is so breathtakingly heavy, it’s like a celebration of all that made Cathedral tick and a final, glorious, headbanging epitaph for a true legend of the doom genre.
Sounds Like: the very essence of classic doom with not a single pair of glittery platform boots in sight
Standout Tracks: Pallbearer, An Observation, This Body, Thy Tomb