Doom metal is a particularly British phenomenon – probably due to the muscular presence of its pioneers Black Sabbath – and Cathedral have been at the forefront of this gloriously miserable subgenre of metal since 1989. The Last Spire, their 10th album, is also their last, signalling songwriter Lee Dorrian’s farewell to the music business and its death throes.
Crushing to the last, Dorrian’s final work under the Cathedral name is pessimistic, thoughtful and sonically leaden, reeking of lichen on tombstones and accompanied by the croaking of evil ravens. There’s humour here, of course – one listen to the calls of “Bring out your dead” in Entrance To Hell evokes Monty Python – and the ambience of the songs is as crucial to the haunting overall impression as the huge riffs themselves.
While Cathedral always favoured melodies as much as heaviness for its own sake, there are doom bands twice as brutal as this (see Moss) and, indeed, Dorrian has never sought to compete in those stakes. Instead, this suite of songs, from Infestation Of Grey Death and Tower Of Silence to The Last Laugh, sets out Cathedral’s stall once and for all: a metal band whose palette of influences made their songs more than merely headbanging opportunities. Dorrian remains active as the head of the Rise Above label, with its roster of RC-friendly artists.