Released: 2011, Rise Above Records
Reviewer: Aaron Yurkiewicz
20 years ago I picked up a copy of Cathedral’s FOREST OF EQUILIBRIUM not knowing anything about the band or its music, other than that Lee Dorrian was fronting the outfit. Basing my purchase decision solely on what I knew of the man’s work in Napalm Death, I was positive that the tracks on that album would have to be the most extreme, brutal, crazy tunes ever captured on recorded tape. Sure the song titles were a bit odd, to say nothing of whatever the hell was going on with the cover art, I rushed home to pop in the cassette and revel in what was sure to be pure, grind induced bliss.
Boy was I wrong.
Following an off-tuned acoustic intro, I was hit with the ridiculously slow and powerful opening notes of “Comiserating the Celebration” and Dorrian’s low, graveled bellow. I kept waiting for it to get faster, but it never did, and I hated this album for it. I found myself continually coming back to the album though, first to point and laugh and how strange it was, but eventually I found myself coming back to it because I was starting to enjoy it. There was a heaviness in those tunes that I’d never experienced before; not GGGRRRRRAAAA!!!! heavy, but heavy like a punch to the gut that still aches 3 days afterwards. To this day, FOREST OF EQUILIBRIUM is one of my top 5 all-time favorite albums.
History will remember FOREST OF EQUILIBRIUM as the catalyst for a doom metal renaissance two decades strong, and Cathedral as the architect of that movement.On December 3, 2010 Cathedral performed a special two-set 20th anniversary show at London’s Islington Academy. In addition to the band’s regular set with their (then) current lineup, the original FOE recording lineup reunited for one night to perform that album in its entirety. If there was one show in the last 5 years that I wish I could’ve attended, this would’ve been it. Thankfully though the complete two set performance was recorded for posterity and has finally been released in the form of ANNIVERSARY, a double disc commemorative souvenir of the event. YYYYEEEESSSS!!!!!!!
CD 1 captures the FOE set, and quite frankly it’s amazing. There’s an organic quality in hearing these songs performed live that gives them so much more weight than their studio counterparts. Though this version of the band hadn’t performed together since before the album was actually released (drummer Mike Smail quit after it was recorded), but you’d never have any indication of that listening to them together again here. It’s a heavy, HEAVY show, particularly monster tracks like “Ebony Tears” and “Reaching Happiness, Touching Pain.” CD2 is a sort of best of set performed by the long running Dorrian/Jennings/Smee/Dixon lineup, and it’s a stellar performance as well. The quartet version of the band is lockstep tight, jamming out massive classics like “Ride,” “Midnight Mountain” and “Hopkins.”
Aside from the Gods of Grind concert footage on the OUR GOD HAS LANDED DVD, there really hasn’t been much officially documented live material from Cathedral. So having not one, but two full high quality concert recordings in one package should be enough to get fans of the band salivating. Regrettably, my digital promo copy of the album didn’t include any liner notes or any of the artwork courtesy of longtime collaborator Dave Patchett, so I’d recommend finding a physical copy of ANNIVERSARY to get the full Cathedral experience. Sadly, Cathedral will retire from the stage on December 3, 2011 and will completely call it quits in 2012 after the release of their final studio effort THE LAST SPIRE. Hopefully that last show will also see a proper release at some point, but if not, ANNIVERSARY is still a fitting coda to Cathedral’s legacy on stage.