Released: 2015, Rise Above Records
Reviewer: Aaron Yurkiewicz
Boasting a roster that includes Lee Dorrian and 2/3 of the band responsible for DOPETHRONE, the out-of-nowhere press release announcing With the Dead’s assemblage and forthcoming album made heads spin in the doom world - though they do spin a lot slower there. Cathedral (and to a large extent, Dorrian himself) were responsible for kickstarting, nay, legitimizing the doom metal movement, while co-conspirators Mark Greening and Tim Bagshaw were not only original members of Electric Wizard, but also claim the likes of Ramesses and Serpentine Path on their resumes as well. Though the assemblage of such an impeccable caliber of talent into a new union immediately sets the mind afire with the musical possibilities, it also sets the bar ridiculously high given the trio’s collective body of work. Ever confident, Dorrian himself sums up the scenario rather decisively: “There’s Nothing to Prove, But Plenty to Express”
And so it goes, WITH THE DEAD is exactly the masterful doom metal experience you would expect it to be. Unsurprisingly, the album’s six tracks bear some resemblances to the ghosts of bands past. Tunes like “A Crown of Burning Stars” and “Living With the Dead” sound like a direct extension of the darker themes explored on Cathedral’s swansong, THE LAST SPIRE, but the level of filth and dread that Greening and Bagshaw soak into the tunes makes them entirely more menacing, definitely more occult inclined. Less boogie, more Satan. “The Cross” and “Nephthys” are slow moving jams that provide some fleeting moments of relief through more traditional Sabbathian 70’s groove, while “Screams From My Own Grave” is punishingly bleak and slow moving – intent on rattling the fillings in your teeth with the riffs droning through your speakers.
Despite the familiarity of the formula and Dorrian’s vocals being a signature calling card of his ex, there’s no mistaking WITH THE DEAD as an offering from any of the other bands already mentioned. But given that this trio basically invented many of the trappings that the genre now takes for granted, you’d be forgiven for thinking as such. That being said, With the Dead offers up a set of comfortable, but no less original or enjoyable set of tunes on their debut. Consider WITH THE DEAD to be a graduate level course at Doom Metal University – this is the level of execution that every doom band in the genre today should be striving towards.