Nostalgic lore states the toll of church bells marked the birth of the U.K.’s CATHEDRAL; realists insist the church bells were actually pounding headaches produced by wicked hangovers. While attending a Carcass show in Cardiff, Wales in late 1989, former Napalm Death vocalist Lee Dorrian and Mark “Griff” Griffiths discussed their love and admiration for bands such as Trouble, Pentagram, Black Sabbath, and Candlemass. The following fateful morning sealed the deal to form a doom metal band (hangovers be damned) to carry the torch of their heroes while an ever-important question loomed: who was going to be in the band besides them?
Target number one was former Acid Reign guitarist Garry “Gaz” Jennings who purchased a copy of Griff’s doom metal fanzine at a Candlemass show in 1988. Target number two was ex-Sacrilege drummer Andy Baker. The inaugural bass-less CATHEDRAL rehearsal took place at Rich Bitch Studios in March 1990. After a few more rehearsals, Baker was replaced by ex-Filthkick member Ben Mochrie. When their search for a bass player proved futile, Griff switched over from guitar and – in the band’s quest to incorporate the twin guitar harmonies of early Trouble – added second guitarist Adam Lehan (ex-Acid Reign) prior to self-producing their In Memoriam EP in 1990, released on Lee’s burgeoning Rise Above Records. In Memoriam gained them worldwide attention within the underground, tours with Morbid Angel and Saint Vitus, and a label deal with Earache Records, but no external success seemed to guarantee a stable drummer. Lee’s recruitment of ex-Dream Death/Penance drummer Mike Smail via a trans-Atlantic handwritten letter seemed to get CATHEDRAL’s momentum going in the right direction. While the recording of their bleak, slow motion classic 1991 album, Forest Of Equilibrium (recently inducted into Decibel Magazine’s Hall Of Fame) is a story in itself (eating lunch with members of Black Sabbath, mass depression, the supposed demonic possession of Mr. Dorrian), this release managed to attract the attention of Columbia Records in the U.S. Yet again, the revolving doors to the drum throne rotated once more, and ex-Acid Reign skins man Mark Ramsey Wharton was invited into the band’s ranks in 1992.
While breaking in their newest member, CATHEDRAL began to hone their sound with their Soul Sacrifice EP, showcasing a more retro, ‘70s-influenced hard rock sound (which later became known as “stoner doom”) and took their sound on the Gods Of Grind tour alongside Carcass, Entombed, and Confessor and later with Saint Vitus. In support of their EP’s stateside release by Columbia Records, CATHEDRAL embarked on their first trek across North America on The Campaign For Musical Destruction tour with Napalm Death, Carcass, and Brutal Truth. Despite its resounding success, Griff quit the band at the tour’s end, leaving the band to hire ex-Cronos guitarist Mike Hickey as a live bassist for performances at CMJ in New York and in Israel. Despite all the setbacks, CATHEDRAL managed to record their second full-length album in 1993, The Ethereal Mirror, with Gaz playing bass on all the tracks. This release marked the band’s live debut in Japan and the loss of Mike Hickey to Carcass. Quickly replaced by grindcore legend Scott Carlson (ex-Repulsion), Carlson’s role in CATHEDRAL became indisputably important; however, he never had the chance to play on an album. More line-up shuffles ensued following the band’s ill-fated American tour with Mercyful Fate and Flotsam & Jetsam. Major label woes, poor touring conditions, internal band strife, and a conflict with King Diamond led to CATHEDRAL leaving the tour (which they did happily), and even after another tour opening for Rob Halford’s Fight, it cost them Adam Lehan. He played his last show with CATHEDRAL alongside Pentagram, Iron Man, and 13 in New York City in December 1993. Coincidentally, this performance was also drummer Mark Warton’s swansong.
Now back home and determined to record something more raw and oblique while testing Columbia Records’ promise of “free creativity,” CATHEDRAL recorded the 40-minute Statik Majik EP in 1994 - including the now infamous “Voyage Of The Homeless Sapien” track, which was half the EP’s total running time. Featuring a variety of musical instruments and objects, Lee’s bizarre ad-libbing at the end of “Homeless Sapien” was crowned by the flushing of a toilet (!). When Columbia renamed the EP Cosmic Requiem for the North America market and tried to omit the “Sapien” track from the release, CATHEDRAL knew their days on a major label were numbered. Two band members down, CATHEDRAL was offered the support slot for an upcoming Black Sabbath European tour. Intent on playing the tour alongside their heroes, Dorrian, Jennings, and Carlson approached Pentagram’s drummer Joe Hassalvander and their guitarist Victor Griffin to fill in. CATHEDRAL’s status throughout Europe rose considerably as a result of this high-profile tour, and while the majority of the dates went well, Griffin eventually left the tour early after a show in Budapest. Concerned about continuing the tour with only one guitarist, the band’s worries were laid to rest when Tony Iommi himself approached the band and said they sounded a hell of a lot better! (With that caliber of reassurance, CATHEDRAL remains a four-piece to this day.) Ultimately, Hassalvander also left the band following the tour’s end.
Extending an invitation to Barry Stern of Trouble to help the band play a few festival and U.K. shows, CATHEDRAL still lacked a permanent drummer and held auditions in England, but to no avail. Columbia was pressuring the band for a new album and the clock was ticking. Carlson befriended a drummer from Chicago named Dave Hornyak (ex-Shades Of Grey) who wanted to try out for the band. Dorrian and Jennings relocated to the U.S. for a month to try out the new line-up – which worked out well. With a positive outlook on CATHEDRAL’s future, Lee and Gaz returned to England (Carlson and Hornyak followed suit later that year to record a five track demo) only to receive a phone call from Columbia in late December telling them they were being dropped. Sadly, a lack of finances made it impossible to keep their new American band members.
Aware that CATHEDRAL was too important to be allowed to deteriorate and disappear, Dorrian and Jennings held another round of auditions for permanent U.K. members, which led to the discovery of the talented Brian Dixon (ex-Caprice/Contagious) on drums and Leo Smee (ex-Trespass) on bass. Diving straight into a tour with Deicide and Brutal Truth seven days after the final audition, CATHEDRAL’s new line-up also played several festival dates. Generating an enormous amount of momentum, the band entered Parkgate Studios in Hastings with producer Kit Woolven and recorded 1995’s Carnival Bizarre, featuring a guitar solo from none other than Tony Iommi on “Utopian Blaster.” Launching themselves back into the limelight, the band toured Europe extensively with Crowbar, Motörhead, played Australia with Paradise Lost, and even returned to Japan. Getting deeper into ‘70s/experimental vibe, CATHEDRAL release another EP, Hopkins (The Witchfinder General) – featuring a cover of The Crazy World Of Arthur Brown’s hit, “Fire” - and returned to play a High Times/Jägermeister-sponsored tour of the States alongside Trouble. When Trouble broke-up mid-tour, CATHEDRAL were stranded in the U.S. The band was unable to finish the tour but managed to return home after a show in New York.
After touring solidly for almost a year, CATHEDRAL mistakingly decided to rush into Parkgate Studios in 1996 to record their next album, Supernatural Birth Machine, without any preparation whatsoever (Dorrian was still writing lyrics literally minutes before they were recorded). Some people trashed the album for falling short on production standards while others praised it, but what the press was saying would prove to be of little concern for the band in light of what they were about to experience. Prior to the album’s release, CATHEDRAL scheduled a South American tour through Peru, Chile, Argentina, and Venezuela. The first 3-week leg of the tour had shows scheduled exclusively for Columbia, and while the turnouts proved to be amazing, things started to go drastically wrong. Dorrian and Smee were held at gunpoint by local police (who confiscated all the band’s possessions and threatened them with imprisonment) for reasons never revealed. The promoter then decided to disappear with the money he was supposed to pay CATHEDRAL with. Forced to cancel all future dates on their South American tour, the band returned to England a bit shaken but not dejected. Diving into a heavy European touring schedule with My Dying Bride, CATHEDRAL made treks to Japan, Australia, and even Greece to play for their ever-growing fan base. Then, abruptly, CATHEDRAL came to a grinding halt due to contract negotiations with Earache. In spite of a now stable line-up, the revered doom band would be put on hiatus for three years.
With a live comeback at 1998’s Dynamo festival, it was later that year when Caravan Beyond Redemption would hit the scene, launching CATHEDRAL back into touring mode throughout Europe, Japan, Australia, Greece and a handful of U.K. shows. In 1999, the band’s In Memoriam EP was re-packaged and re-released by Dorrian’s own Rise Above Records, with a bonus five live tracks from a 1991 show in Holland. That same year, Earache coordinated a double EP re-issue of Soul Sacrifice and the out-of-print Statik Majik due to fan demand, but it would take another two years before CATHEDRAL would issue another studio album.
Dorrian, Jennings, Smee, and Dixon spent July 17th – August 6th, 2000 holed up in Chapel Studios in South Thoresby, England with Billy Anderson and Ewan Davies to record Endtyme. Displaying a rather macabre side to the band, Endtyme was a resplendent collection of nihilist dark lyrics and grooves. Called “a slab of earth-shattering doom” by Painkiller Magazine, the album featured the 13-minute track, “Templars Arise! (The Return)”, boasting a dirge-filled intro before imploding in on itself with a colossal finale. "After being together so long, we felt that we had nothing to prove anymore," explained Dorrian. "We tried a few new things here and there, but we realized that what we do best is what we've done on this album: strip it all down, make it more straightforward and direct and have more of a focal point to achieve." The quartet soon took to the road in Europe and Japan with Rise Above Records artist Hangnail. Making a stop in the States to play the New Jersey Metalfest, CATHEDRAL toured with their old friends Entombed in Europe. Endtyme also marked the end of the band’s ties to Earache Records. Now free agents, CATHEDRAL accepted a deal with Dreamcatcher Records and at the beginning of 2002, the band returned to their rehearsal room in Liverpool to commence writing for their seventh full-length, VIIth Coming. With a dynamic production courtesy of Kit Woolven and artwork by Dave Patchett, the album clearly sought to balance the band’s love for early, groove-laden ‘70s rock with their natural doom inclinations. It would lay down a blueprint for what was to come three years later, when Nuclear Blast Records would sign them.
Veterans of a 15-year career with an ongoing reputation for valiantly plying their trade against all media, industry, and scene trends, Coventry, England’s CATHEDRAL remain one of the most revered bands in the modern incarnation of the doom genre. With an album title inspired by Hieronymous Bosch’s 1504 painting, The Garden Of Earthly Delights, leave it to the eternal winters in the twisted souls of CATHEDRAL’s members to come up with The Garden Of Unearthly Delights as the name for their eighth studio album. Recorded at New Rising Studios, produced by Warren Ryker (Down, Crowbar), and graced with artwork from the unofficial fifth member of the band, artist Dave Patchett, Metal Hammer Magazine has called TGOUD CATHEDRAL’s “finest effort” while Decibel Magazine hails it as “a triumph.”
Leading the same line up of the past ten years is the inimitable Lee Dorrian, the voice behind the powerful entity that is CATHEDRAL, infectiously striving to entertain and educate the masses with quality music. Joined by the compelling arrangements of Garry “Gaz” Jennings’ stylistic guitar work, the solidity of Leo Smee’s bass lines, and Brian Dixon’s meticulous time-keeping on drums, CATHEDRAL have no issue with wearing their Celtic Frost and Discharge influences on their sleeves. The Garden Of Unearthly Delights is literally an Eden of fertile soil that gives rise to Sabbathian riffs of a distinctly English heritage. While in the throes of inspiration, it’s evident that these sound smiths paused to take a serious look at what they were creating and then toiled with the material in a sort of musical manual labor. The acoustic solitude of “Fields Of Zagara,” the undeniably catchy “Corpsecycle,” the epic 27 -minute track “The Garden” (which could certainly be visualized as an entire Side B on a vinyl record!), and even the hidden track entitled “Proga – Europa” (featuring guest female vocalist Lo Polidoro) all illustrate how CATHEDRAL’s staying power is rooted in having steered clear of standardization, stagnation, and convention.
Debuting on the official U.K. Top Independent Albums chart at #45 and the official Rock & Metal Chart at #40 following its European release, all indicators show that although the point of origin for the sound on the new album maybe be a black sea of tar, the future for CATHEDRAL – heartened by the sinister, slow-motion “doom doom doom” mantra of these cosmic horsemen - has a far brighter hue than any hangover could ever imagine