It's been a fairly long wait between albums for Cathedral, the last one, 2005's The Garden of Uneathly Delights, had ecstatic high points and a few misfires, as is normal with Cathedral albums, but was generally a pretty strong offering. Arriving five years later, The Guessing Game could well be the band's most adventurous album to date. It is certianly epic.
The songs on this album are sprinkled with musical colour, establishing a progressive and psychedelic kaleidescope of desirable sound. Each of the two CDs that the music is spread across opens with an instrumental, the first of which leads into the epic Funeral of Dreams. This is a truly outstanding track, lasting around 8 minutes and it never gets boring. Other standouts on CD1 are the very pleasant instrumental title track and the funky, retro Cats, Insence, Candles and Wine. The second disc disc is not quite up to the standards of the first, but the album is a grower and there is much to discover on repeated listens. There are, of course, a few of Cathedral's trademark lumbering funeral march tunes to offset the flourishes of light.
The Guessing Game is another strong album from Cathedral and fans will be sure to lap it up but it could have perhaps been better in some regards. Some tracks are let down by what seem to be poorly thought out vocal melodies and repetetive lyricism. This albums lacks one of the rollicking, catchy as hell, heavy metal romps that Cathedral do so well and the couple of tracks that seem to be heading in that direction become derailed when the chorus arrives. I'm thinking of Painting in the Dark and Casket Chasers here, for example. As for the lyrics, constant references to "society" and "reality" become a tad tiring and I would prefer that Mr. Dorrian climb down from his soapbox more often than he does here. The vocalist does seem to have a proverbial bee in his bonnet with regards to his perception of the general public, constantly accusing us of existing in some kind of living death. This from someone who is usually a fan of the singer's insane ramblings about "skeletal hands" and all that. If I'm not mistaken there is a refernce to a skeletal something or other in The Guessing Game, which, needless to say, is a highlight.
Edit: It is a spectral sea, not a skeletal item.