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She Isn't the Only One Whose Ridden to the Sabbath
on 22 September 2005
Cathedral's third album is in my mind the bands finest and one of the best doom albums around. `Carnival Bizarre' has pretty much everything you could want from a metal album; songs about witch finding, horror film samples, Huggy Bear and oh crikey even Tony Iommi!
What hits me first about this album is that Cathedral finally got the production job they deserved very thick and bassy without overproduction. `Forest of Equilibrium' and `The Ethereal Mirror' were great records but they did suffer from a bit of a `cheapo metal distortion pedal' guitar sound in places and a weird separation between instruments, actually this was only a problem on `The Ethereal Mirror' as `Forest of Equilibrium' suited a dodgy production.
Still, good production means absolutely sod all without songs and thankfully this album has a fair few corkers. `Vampire Sun' is on of Cathedral's more upbeat numbers and has some devilishly simple riffs and even some Tom G Warrior worshipping hey's...its pretty groovy overall but I'm not one to scorn something for being catchy, it's a great song hinting at a more upbeat direction for the band (still I must stress this isn't `Pyromania'... its not that upbeat). `Hopkins (the Witchfinder General)' is a tribute to three things;
The historical figure of Matthew Hopkins
The character in the film `Witchfinder General' played expertly by Vincent Price.
The NWOBHM band Witchfinder General, I find this funny as this song is actually better than anything WFG recorded (wanna foight about that ya testicle!).
The song itself is a masterpiece, NWOBHM inspired riffs, sing along lyrics with great tempo changes, some duelling solos and sound bites from the films `Mark of the Devil' and of course `Witchfinder General'. It's not Cathedral's `hit' without reason, it's one of their best songs. `Utopian Blaster' again is a great song with a more epic feel in the lyrics. This is the third more up tempo song in a row... sell outs! We do get a kind of servants meet master vibe or sorcerers apprentice meets *ahem* totally sly Sabbath reference here...The Wizard, with Tony Iommi on lead guitar. Needless to say Tony does a great job and it's the best thing he did in 1995 as Sabbath's own `Forbidden' was a poo sandwich.
Closer `Electric Grave' is a epic with some lovely twists and turns, killer riffs throughout...no one captures that Sabbath vibe like Cathedral and here's another shining example, although some bands do get closer in sonic terms through using vintage amps and such Cathedral have more of their own interpretation which is more interesting to me. The `Snowblind, we burn we meditate...' section is quite beautiful for the band and hinted at future proggy twists and turns to come on say `The Garden of Unearthly Delights'.
Despite all this upbeat Huggy bear tomfoolery there is still a fair amount of traditional doom to be found here. `Night of the Seagulls' shows one of the bands obsessions; The Blind Dead films which they keep on referring to in songs (and the films themselves are excellent, if you like the idea of undead Templar Knights sacrificing virgins get out your old Betamax and check them out) . Musically, the song is a trip back to Sabbath's `Electric Funeral' and its good enough but hardly spectacular.
` Inertia's cave' again is doomy plodding number most notable for going into the riff from Zeppelin's `Moby Dick'. `Blue Light' again is something of a departure and relies mostly on clean guitars and groovy bass lines, its interesting but lightweight in comparison to good old fashioned riff-driven devilry such as `Hopkins...' .
I'm a tad perplexed as to whether Cathedral where going against the grain in the mid 90's. On the one hand occult obsessed Sabbath worship was at odds with the countless faceless extreme metal bands blasting their morbid way into mediocrity but Cathedral was perhaps in keeping with say Soundgarden or Alice in Chains and their Sabbath worship. Then I suddenly realise I don't honestly don't care as `Carnival Bizarre' is undoubtedly cool regardless or whether it was in vogue or not and its quality speaks for itself.