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3.60 | 25 ratings | 3 reviews
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Album · 1995

Filed under Stoner Metal


1. Vampire Sun (4:06)
2. Hopkins (The Witchfinder General) (5:19)
3. Utopian Blaster (5:41)
4. Night of the Seagulls (7:01)
5. Carnival Bizarre (8:36)
6. Inertias' Cave (6:39)
7. Fangalactic Supergoria (5:55)
8. Blue Light (3:27)
9. Palace of Fallen Majesty (7:44)
10. Electric Grave (8:26)

Total Time: 62:54


- Lee Dorrian / Vocals
- Garry Jennings / Guitar
- Leo Smee / Bass
- Brian Dixon / Drums

About this release

Earache Records, September 29th, 1995

"Utopian Blaster" features Black Sabbath's Tony Iommi on guest guitar.

Bonus track for Japan:
11. Karmacopia (5:06)

Thanks to UMUR, TheHeavyMetalCat, adg211288 for the updates


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To be honest, Cathedral never quite sat right with me. Their earliest material is in a proto-death-doom style which I've never really managed to enjoy, whereas The Carnival Bizarre sees them moving into stoner rock territory. Groove is king here, along with chunky riffs and a retro-nostalgia attitude. Simply put, no reference to the 1970s is too much for this album, and whilst the inclusion of Tony Iommi as a guest on one track proves that the band had managed to convince at least one icon of the era to take them seriously, I personally can't get behind this one; it seems so concerned with reminding me of superior bands from the 1970s that I keep wanting to turn it off and put classic-era Sabbath on instead.
"The Carnival Bizarre" is the 3rd full-length studio album by UK doom metal act Cathedral. The album was released through Earache Records in September 1995. While still sounding unmistakably like Cathedral, "The Carnival Bizarre" is the album where the band´s sound radically changed and a new stylistic era began. The change in sound is in large part due to lineup changes. New in the lineup are Leo Smee on bass and Brian Dixon on drums. Both helped stabilize a somewhat unstable lineup that had seen several changes in the first couple of years of the band´s existence. The most radical change though, and the most defining for Cathedral´s "new" sound, is that after guitarist Adam Lehan left in 1994, the band opted to continue with only one guitarist.

...the music on "The Carnival Bizarre" is doom metal but compared to "Forest of Equilibrium (1991)" and "The Ethereal Mirror (1993)", which are both predominantly slow doom metal albums (the latter features mid-paced grooves too), the album is much more groove oriented and features more mid-paced tempoes than slow doomy ones. The guitar harmonies that were such a big part of the sound on the band´s first two albums are replaced by a much less sophisticated one guitar attack. The band adds some occassional keyboard parts to compensate, but the guitar harmonies are greatly missed IMO. Lee Dorrian´s vocal delivery has always been "out there", otherworldly, and quite unique sounding with both distored psychadelic type vocals and deeper register darker vocals. The vocal style on "The Carnival Bizarre" is a bit "lighter" and it´s obvious Lee Dorrian is trying hard to create a more melodic edge to his vocal delivery. The problem is the man can´t hit a note if it came up and bit him in the ass and while that´s strangely enough oddly charming at times, it´s unfortunately a bit cringe worthy too when it doesn´t work. I generally much prefer his darker semi-growling and psychadelic tinged vocal style from the first two albums.

Without the guitar harmonies of the first two albums, the tracks generally lack the songwriting depth and original sound of the earlier material and rely much more on heavy mid-paced grooves and a very obvious Black Sabbath influence/worship. Tracks like "Fangalactic Supergoria" (which is the only track on the album which reminds me of the music style on the preceeding album) and the psychadelic doom rock/metal track "Blue Light" are examples of tracks on the album that fall a bit out of the heavy groove catagory, while tracks like "Vampire Sun", "Hopkins (The Witchfinder General)", "Utopian Blaster" (which features Tony Iommi of Black Sabbath on guitar) and "Electric Grave" are examples of the most groove based tracks on the album.

I´ve always had a problem with the sound production on the album. It´s not that the sound isn´t professional or that it´s lo-fi in any way, but the sound lacks warmth. The massive guitar sound and the way the drums sound detached from the other instruments in the mix is, and has always been, a turn-off to me. This is probably highly subjective though, so don´t put too much into my words. Let´s just say the production is an aquired taste.

"The Carnival Bizarre" was a great disappointment to me when it came out, and after not having listened to the album for years, it was with some reluctance that I brought the album up from my storage basement and into the sunlight once more to write this review. Honestly my opinion hasn´t changed one bit in those years and while "The Carnival Bizarre" isn´t as such a bad release, my interest in the album is not even close to how interested I am in the first two albums. A 3 star (60%) rating is warranted.
Ok I'm a bit of Cathedral fan, I admit it. How can you not love them, they can be serious, they can be funny, they have a great sound, and Lee Dorian just knows how to entertain and interest.

This being their third album, it adopts alot from what the second album progressed. At times more a kind of a disco progy punk feel to it, with the odd doom moments.

I think this album is the perfect symbolic album of what Cathedral are about really. The sound is alot more noticable on this album and is maintained throughout. To be honest, I prefer Cathedral when their slightly experimental, but down to the bone Cathedral isn't bad. The only problem is, it can at times be a bit of Sabbath ripp off, which sometimes annoys me, cause it makes the doom genre seem so generic at times.

1. Vampire Sun - Pretty standard punky doom. Nothing too special, although quite funny at times. 7/10

2. Hopkins (The Witchfinder General) - One of their catchiest songs. Love the solos in the middle. Some very groovy riffs in this song. 10/10

3. Utopian Blaster - Some killer riffs, and Tony Iommi is on this song! Interesting changes. 9/10

4. Night Of The Seagulls - Killer main riff and chorus. Quite doomy and heavy at parts. 10/10

5. Carnival Bizarre - Very cheesy at times...but so good. Also some interesting more lighter moments. 10/10

6. Intertia's Cave - I love how Lee's voice at times can be like a musical instrument. Odd, but with cool modulations throughout. 9/10

7. Fangalactic Supergoria - What a kick ass riff. Some evil vocals and moments throughout. 8/10

8. Blue Light - I think every Cathedral has a song similar to this one. Interesting song for the band. 9/10

9. Palace Of Fallen Majesty - Amazing main riff. Very groovy. Great arrangement. 8/10

10. Electric Grave - Typical Black Sabbath ripp off. Although interesting at some moments. 8/10

CONCLUSION: Everyone says its a classic...I don't completely agree, but I do think it's their most digestable...and by far not their best...wait for my next album will see my favourite Cathedral album.

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