CATHEDRAL — Forest of Equilibrium (review)

CATHEDRAL — Forest of Equilibrium album cover Album · 1991 · Doom Metal Buy this album from MMA partners
5/5 ·
Vim Fuego
When Lee Dorian announced the formation of Cathedral, no one quite knew what the hell to expect. Dorian had been part of the first legendary line up of Napalm Death, so a Doom Metal band seemed like the polar opposite. Add to that a guitarist from one of the UK’s leading Thrash bands of the time, and it seemed like a very odd proposition. Would this be the first ever high-speed Doom band? The first few notes of ‘Comiserating the Celebration’ showed what was in store. Cathedral was slow, heavy and well, Doom-laden. The rhythm guitar came straight from the Tony Iommi school of riffs. Discordant guitar lines played counter to the rhythm, seemingly out of tune, but fitting perfectly. Dorian’s psychotic screech was gone, replaced by a deep, soulful moan. Like a mammoth struggling for its life in a prehistoric tar pit, the whole effect is one of sinking, a hopeless inescapable fate. And basically, that was the tone for the entire album. The band explores the plummeting depths of despair repeatedly. There is not an element of cheer anywhere on the album. ‘Soul Sacrifice’ picks up the pace a little, and apart from a final flourish, hardly raises the tempo beyond a slow march. ‘Equilibrium’ also rumbles like a rolling shockwave of an earthquake across a continent. Lee Dorian’s vocals were something of a revelation. Until the release of this album, Doom vocalists basically emulated Ozzy Osbourne’s high-pitched tenor. Some like Trouble’s Eric Wagner favoured the tripped out, stoned Ozzy, while others like Candlemass’ Messiah Marcolin went with full operatic pomposity. Paradise Lost’s ‘Lost Paradise’ predates ‘Forest Of Equilibrium’, with Nick Holmes employing a similar vocal technique, but there was a large Death Metal component to Paradise Lost’s sound. Cathedral was pure Doom. Dorian sounds like he’s on the ultimate downer trip, all life and energy sapped from his body, his voice the croak of a man who has seen his own demise and has accepted it resignedly. The lyrics are tales of mysticism and natural majick, but Dorian would inspire dread no matter what the subject matter. Guitarist Adam Lehan was also treading new ground. He’d formerly been a member of UKAC (United Kingdom Apple Core, a hardcore label piss-take) nutters Acid Reign. It might have been tempting to play old Acid Reign riffs at half pace, but there is nothing here which even hints at Thrash. The odd ropey riff is excusable in Thrash, because playing at high speed mean it’s gone again fairly quickly. However, playing at the leaden pace of Cathedral Lehan and fellow guitarist Gary Jennings had to deliberately place every note, or it would hang there rotting like a corpse in a gibbet. ‘Forest Of Equilibrium’ helped relaunch Doom Metal into the general Metal conscious. It attracted notice because of the band members’ previous gigs, but kept the interest because of its own musical merit. It was also Cathedral’s only pure Doom release. From ‘The Ethereal Mirror’ and beyond, a large Stoner Rock component was added to the sound. ‘Forest Of Equilibrium’ stands alone as a dread monolith in Cathedral’s career.
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