Reviews for May 6th, 2013

Cathedral – The Last Spire

Cathedral, the legendary UK doom metal band, has returned with their tenth and final album, “The Last Spire.”

I covered Cathedral not too long ago in a 365 Days of Metal video when I talked about their 1995 third album, “The Carnival Bizarre.” That was, and is, my favorite album from the band. I’ve been an on-again, off-again fan of Cathedral over the years; I took a break from Cathedral in the late 90s when their material seemed a little too weird for my tastes, but returned to the band in the early 2000s.

There really isn’t any other band quite like Cathedral. With the heavy-as-hell music, Lee Dorrian’s distinct vocals and the beautiful album artwork of Dave Patchett, there is certainly no mistaking Cathedral for anyone else.

I suppose I am glad they let us all know ahead of time that this would be the last album. This gives us time to adjust to the idea and savor the flavor of one last Cathedral release. If they had told us after the album was released, I might have found myself thinking “Oh, come on, just one more album!” This ties things up nicely.

Maybe I’ve got a crappy sounding promo version of the album, but I really thought that the production on their farewell album would be monumental and awe-inspiring. The reality is that it sounds slightly muffled and muddy. I suppose that makes sense in a way, but I was really hoping for something…more…in the production department.

Ultimately the songs are what matter most, and I am enjoying them mightily. Perhaps my enjoyment is partly heightened by the bittersweet knowledge that this is my last first time with Cathedral, but I’m not going to throw them a good review just because of who they are; they have earned their legendary status and “The Last Spire” is a fitting eulogy for these doom masters. I think fans of Cathedral will be pleased.

Check out the track “Tower of Silence” below:

Surgeon – Chemical Reign

Surgeon is a progressive metal trio from Philadelphia and “Chemical Reign” is their second album.

I’m not generally a huge fan of progressive metal; a lot of it sounds the same to me. There are certainly a few bands in the style that I enjoy, but regardless, when I see a bio sheet that says prog metal I tend to begin writing them off in my mind. I can only say the same things over and over again so many times before I want to destroy something.” Yes, you play very nicely…yes, the production is very good too…no, the songs aren’t all that interesting when you look past the wanking.”

Surgeon, however, are not typical of what I would call progressive metal. Honestly, if the label hadn’t been lobbed at me by the bio, I may not have even gone there at all. To be fair, the bio also says the band “merges into the realms of epic, classic doom.” I wouldn’t say I really hear much in the way of doom in Surgeon’s sound, but I suppose if you took some epic doom ala Doomsword and mixed it with prog metal it might be akin to what I am hearing now.

I have to say I’m pretty surprised to hear a band this interesting coming out of Philly. Not that I have anything against Philly (other than the Flyers, Go Caps!) I’m actually quite fond of Philadelphia. Perhaps I should say I’m surprised that Surgeon is American. With so many American bands tending towards shitty metalcore it is nice to hear something new and refreshing from my homeland. Now before you get all self-righteous, I am perfectly aware there are many great American underground and extreme metal bands that are making headway on re-claiming our metal throne, but you have to admit they are struggling against a tidal wave of shit bands.

Surgeon is a nice surprise that I am enjoying immensely. I highly recommend checking out “Chemical Reign” when it is released in a couple weeks.

Old Forest - Tales of the Sussex Weald ; Part 3 (Andredsweald)

“Tales of the Sussex Weald ; Part 3 (Andredsweald)” is the second album from UK black metal band Old Forest. It appears this album was first released in 2011, so I’m assuming this is a re-release or something.

Normally I’m a real stickler for a nice sounding production, but sometimes a band pulls off a rough sounding production in such a good way that I actually find myself enjoying the lack of clarity. Old Forest pull off just such a feat with this album. They actually combine a very rough sounding guitar/drum combination with some cleaner sections that include keyboards and chanting. The vocals kind of straddle the line between the two; they are harsh and not overly clear sounding, but they are placed pretty well in the mix, so it works.

“Tales of the Sussex Weald ; Part 3 (Andredsweald)” is actually rather surprising and interesting if you can get past the initial revulsion of the sound quality. I hear so many shitty black metal bands that my knee-jerk reaction was to skip to the next band, but upon closer inspection the raw sound of this album is actually very calculated and the songs are really much better than the typical fare in this production style. The fact that they blend their black metal with some doom elements makes me like them even more.

This album certainly won’t be for everyone, but I think there is definitely an audience that will really enjoy these songs. Check out the track “At the Black Priory.”

Sacrilegious Impalement – III – Lux Infera

Sacrilegious Impalement is a Finnish black metal band and “III – Lux Infera” is their third album.

Sacrilegious Impalement pull off a slightly cleaner production than Old Forest, but their black metal is a lot more traditional sounding, which ultimately is not as interesting as something different. They may lose a few points for originality, but they make them up again in execution.

The more I listen to this album, the more I think of “Nemesis Divina”-era Satyricon. I think “Nemesis Divina” has a bigger sounding production, but style-wise, and particularly with the vocals, I hear a definite similarity. Perhaps that is why I am leaning towards liking this album.

If you are looking for something new and innovative on the black metal scene, then keep on looking. However, if you prefer your black metal in the old-school style with a cold and raw production, and don’t mind a little Satyricon-worship, you just may be a fan of Sacrilegious Impalement.

Check out the track “Down for Grim Lord.”