When doom metal legends Cathedral finally called it a day in 2013, there was much sadness but also a great outpouring of gratitude for the music recorded in their twenty-three year career as titans of the doom scene. A thoroughly British institution with a penchant for eccentricities, the quartet would in later years branch into stoner and prog territory, but their birth in 1990, with vocalist Lee Dorrian having decided that life in Napalm Death wasn’t for him, came at a time when doom/death was in its infancy; and it was that sound, or rather a more traditional doom one that Cathedral would go for on their first demo In Memoriam. First re-issued in 1999, the time is now right to re-visit this first effort, again via Dorrian’s own Rise Above Records, and, with the benefit of hindsight, appreciate how bloody good Cathedral were.
Opening track ‘Mourning of a New Day’ is slow, ponderous and menacing, demonstrating the power of taking it slowly at a time when the rest of the world wanted to play as fast as possible. The guitar tone is stark and heavy, Lee Dorrian’s vocals are guttural and a tad awkward, and the whole thing seems drenched in a miasma of pain and sorrow with tales of vampire suns and Witchfinder Generals nowhere to be seen. A suitably downbeat cover of Pentagram’s classic ‘All Your Sins’ follows with all the hippie vibe stripped away before a grimly powerful early cut of ‘Ebony Tears’ rears its head. Final track ‘March’, a joyless, militaristic number doesn’t really go anywhere and would have been a better fit for industrial legends Godflesh, also newbies at that stage.
The live tracks, recorded in Europe in 1991 show a young band with a fiercely professional outlook and a tight, devastatingly weighty sound. The first three tracks of the demo are replicated here along with forgotten classic ‘Neophytes for the Serpent’s Eve’ from the band’s second demo and a gut-wrenching version of Forest of Equilibrium (Earache) classic ‘Intro/Commiserating the Celebration.’ Dorrian’s stage banter is polite and to the point and while the muffled cheers from the audience hint at Cathedral’s limited appeal in the early days, their skill and power was never in doubt.
A timely reminder of where it all began, when four miserable lads from Coventry decided to replicate the grimness of their surroundings and in doing so created one of the most important bands in the history of underground music. We are poorer for having lost them but with classic re-issues such as In Memoriam, their legacy will live on forever.