Slowness will prevail
dB Rating: 9/10
Release Date: July 10th, 2015
Label: Rise Above Records
When Lee Dorrian was casting about for bandmates in the late ’80s, the vocalist could’ve easily capitalized on the aesthetic triumph of his last full length with Napalm Death, 1988’s From Enslavement to Obliteration. But, rather than start another speed-obsessed grind band, he did the opposite. In 1991, Dorrian’s post-Napalm outfit Cathedral unveiled its debut full-length, an unfashionably slow slab of unhyphenated doom called Forest of Equilibrium. This radical move from extreme speed to extreme slowness must’ve left more than a few non-tape-trading fans scratching their heads. In retrospect—and thanks to the internet—it’s much easier to see that there was an evolutionary step between Dorrian’s Napalm exit and Cathedral’s full-length debut. It’s called In Memoriam.
Expanded here with five live tracks, Cathedral’s 1990 demo boasts a raw, unkempt energy that has as much in common with FETO’s guttercrawling opener (“Evolved as One”) as anything on Forest. Just compare the two versions of “Ebony Tears.” Defined by crusty guitar tones, scrappy-sounding drums and demented vocals, the In Memoriam version is more reminiscent of Swans than Sabbath. It’s taken at a slower clip than the aspirationally slick version on Forest—and it sounds like the guitarists are tuned a half or whole step lower. None of the other tracks from the four-song demo showed up on Forest, making this less of a dry run than a missing link.
The most interesting aspect of the punky In Memoriam is that the other two originals— “Mourning of a New Day” and “March”—hint at Godflesh-style harshness. Forest’s multiple flute solos make clear that at some point between 1990 and 1991, Cathedral began steering toward a hippie vibe. (1993’s “Midnight Mountain” video shows what’s at the bottom of this slippery slope.) For those who lament the change, this newly gussied-up demo makes for a damn good memoriam.
Review originally printed in the October 2015 issue (#132).