The Obelisk Questionnaire: Lee Dorrian

Posted in Questionnaire on July 1st, 2015 by JJ Koczan

lee dorrian

There is not much one might do in doom or metal in general that Lee Dorrian hasn’t done. From getting his start at the beginnings of grindcore with Napalm Death to forming the massively influential Cathedral to fostering and continuing to develop an underground rock aesthetic few can predict or match with Rise Above Records — giving bands like Orange GoblinWitchcraftNaevusRevelation and Electric Wizard a home in their early stages — his work over the better part of the last 30 years has not only resulted in badass records like Cathedral‘s 1991 debut, Forest of Equilibrium, or the 2002 Rampton album from the one-off project Teeth of Lions Rule the Divine with members of SunnO))) and Iron Monkey, but has actively played a role in reshaping what we think of as heavy. An inimitable stage presence, Dorrian put Cathedral to rest in 2013 after the release of The Last Spire (review here), but he continues his forward-thinking work with Rise Above, releasing landmark works from the likes of Ghost and Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats as well as potential doom-shapers like Lucifer.

This week, Cathedral reissues their first demo, 1990’s In Memoriam, complete with bonus live material, and I’m thrilled to be able to have Dorrian provide his answers to The Obelisk Questionnaire to mark the occasion:

The Obelisk Questionnaire: Lee Dorrian

How did you come to do what you do?

Just from being a fan of music since I was a little kid. From a very early age I was fascinated by not only the music, but also the lifestyle and culture surrounding it. In my early teens I started doing a fanzine, this led me to booking shows in local pubs and venues when I was sixteen. This in turn led me to joining my first ever band, which was Napalm Death and it went from there.

Describe your first musical memory.

I have memories of listening to records with my dad when I was about four years old. In particular, I remember him playing Beach Boys over and over but I also remember rocking out in the living room with him to Slade around the same time. Also, one very vivid memory from around this time was continually playing the Small Faces single on Immediate Records called “Itchycoo Park.” For some reason it had a blue ink stain on the black and white labels and I used to watch it going round and round, whilst the sound effects on the track would make me dizzy, haha. It was my favourite single when I was a little kid but the first single I actually bought with my own pocket money was “Kung Fu Fighting” by Carl Douglas. After that I got into the Bay City Rollers, then became serious about rock ‘n’ roll and was a Teddy Boy at eight years old! I used to hang around with the older Teds and they showed me the ropes, what to wear, how to dance, etc.

Describe your best musical memory to date.

I guess it was hearing a track off the B-side of Scum on the John Peel radio show. He had been my idol (if that’s the right word), since I was 10/11 years old, so hearing him play a record that I was on was just completely surreal. Then I got to know him a bit, which was just amazing. Nothing I did after that really topped it to be honest.

When was a time when a firmly held belief was tested?

When Cathedral signed to Columbia Records in the US. As anarchist teenager, I said I would never be in a band that signed to a major label. The opportunity came to us, we didn’t chase it, or even desire it. All I can say is, we had some great times as a result but it also fucked everything up.

Where do you feel artistic progression leads?

Genuine artist progression leads to absolute greatness, though it depends on how you interpret it. I’m sure many artists I’ve admired early on, but not liked them so much as they’ve “progressed,” would view their progression differently than I would. I’m sure the same could be said for many people that have listened to some things I may have been involved with over the years: I might think it’s good, they might think it’s crap.

How do you define success?

Doing something you believe in and getting it right artistically. To me that would be more important than selling millions of records.

What is something you have seen that you wish you hadn’t?

Swans a few weeks ago in London. Having said that, the first time I saw them in ‘86 was one of the best shows I have seen in my life.

Describe something you haven’t created yet that you’d like to create.

A planet where only cool people lived.

Something non-musical that you’re looking forward to?

My daughter coming back from vacation!

Cathedral, “Morning of a New Day”

Cathedral on Thee Facebooks

Rise Above Records on Twitter

Rise Above Records

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Cathedral to Reissue In Memoriam June 16

Posted in Whathaveyou on June 9th, 2015 by JJ Koczan

cathedral in 1990

A quarter century after its initial release and two years after Cathedral‘s final album, The Last Spire (review here), came out, their In Memoriam demo will be reissued by Rise Above Records. One can hardly imagine the band had any idea of the legacy they were starting when they named their first offering in memory of something already passed away, but the irony of the title notwithstanding, In Memoriam is a landmark document in the history of doom from a time when its practitioners were still few and far between. The reissue, which is out June 16, comes with a live set from 1991 and a bonus DVD for those who’d like to extend their studies.

The PR wire has it like this:

cathedral in memoriam

CATHEDRAL “In Memoriam”

As with a choice few truly great bands, the first self-financed cassette recording by Cathedral – made available in October 1990 – was a pioneering underground masterpiece in its own right; the sound of a young band exploring its newfound chemistry, finding confident variations on a flawless list of influences and cultivating a sound and style that would prove hugely inspirational throughout the 1990s and beyond, being a major influence on everyone from Electric Wizard through to Reverend Bizarre.

Where most demos are little more than a dry run for the first album, ‘In Memoriam’ still has its own distinct and important identity in the Cathedral canon. The debut LP that followed, ‘Forest Of Equilibrium’, has a sombre, devout, melodic and mystical grandeur all of its own – but ‘In Memoriam’ has a far murkier, earthier, more deathly intent. Creepy, cryptic and bowel-looseningly heavy, it represents the first time that the doom metal stylings of Trouble, Saint Vitus, Pentagram and Witchfinder General had been rendered in a new, more extreme metallic form.

At the beginning of the new decade, it was really only Cathedral who were proud to assert the influence of true doom metal – a perennially unfashionable genre, but especially in a turn-of-the-decade metal scene so obsessed with speed, technicality, brutality and modernity.

*Highly influential cult Doom Metal debut recording by the UK masters, Cathedral.
*CD edition comes with bonus DVD, featuring a rare live performance from 1991. Also includes booklet with extensive notes and rare photo’s.
*Vinyl edition comes as a double 180gm LP set in gatefold sleeve and full sized 8-page booklet.

Demo 1990
Mourning of a New Day
All Your Sins
Ebony Tears
Live Holland/Belgium 1991
Intro/Comiserating the Celebration
Ebony Tears
Neophytes For Serpent Eve
All Your Sins
Mourning of a New Day
DVD Live in Groningen (NL) May 1st 1991
Intro/Comiserating the Celebration
Ebony Tears
Neophytes For Serpent Eve
All Your Sins
Mourning of a New Day

Cathedral, “Ebony Tears”

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Cathedral, The Last Spire: Circle of Time Has Stopped

Posted in Reviews on May 24th, 2013 by JJ Koczan

Whatever else you might want to say about Cathedral‘s catalog as it’s developed over the course of their massively influential more than 20-year run, the band has always made the album they wanted to make. Even during the British doom legends’ mid- and late-’90s period of wandering through the stoner rock wilderness — see 1996’s Supernatural Birth Machine and 1998’s Caravan Beyond Redemption — they didn’t wind up there by happenstance. Still, their legacy will always be for morose, stomping, thoroughly British doom, and it’s that side of their approach that their fans have most clamored for over the years. Their last studio outing, 2010’s The Guessing Game (review here), offered two discs of classic prog-influenced songs that asked much of their audience but offered much in return. Where the prior full-length, 2005’s The Garden of Unearthly Delights, had sought to marry some of the rock and doom sides together, The Guessing Game marked the band’s 20th anniversary with a bold and uncompromising progression of their sound. The results were never going to be as heralded as the band’s earliest works on landmark albums like 1991’s Forest of Equilibrium debut (presented in its entirety on the Anniversary live album; review here) or the subsequent offerings The Ethereal Mirror (1993) and The Carnival Bizarre (1995), but again, it was the album Cathedral felt compelled to write, and that was what mattered at the time.

Now Cathedral have called it quits, played their last live show, made their last video and the somewhat cleverly titled The Last Spire (released through Rise Above/Metal Blade) is reportedly to be their final album. One never knows for sure — surely over their time together the band must have amassed suitable fodder for rarities collections, live albums, greatest hits, cover records and so forth — but if it actually is the end of their run, The Last Spire is also the point at which the album Cathedral wants to make meets with the album that fans want to hear. It is an 56-minute victory lap that — far from actually sounding like one — presents eight songs of the dark, dreary doom that has come to be thought of as traditional in no small part because of Cathedral‘s crafting of it. The band’s lineup of vocalist Lee Dorrian, guitarist Gary “Gaz” Jennings, bassist Scott Carlson and drummer Brian Dixon present some progressive moments reminiscent of or at very least nodding toward The Guessing Game — the synth interlude that interrupts the sluggish lumber of “An Observation” comes to mind; David Moore‘s contributions of Hammond, Moog, synth and mellotron aren’t to be understated in establishing The Last Spire‘s murky atmosphere — but in their structure and in their intent, cuts like the early “Pallbearer,” “Cathedral of the Damned” and “Tower of Silence” underline the doomed feel for which Cathedral have become so known both in their home country and abroad. They are Cathedral at their most Cathedral. And rightly so. One couldn’t possibly hope for more of them than that.

The aforementioned trio occur sequentially following the intro “Entrance to Hell,” which finds Dorrian repeating the phrase “Bring out your dead” — which in my mind always goes right back to Monty Python and the Holy Grail, but he sells it well — over suitably plague-addled atmospheres, with “Pallbearer” as the longest track on The Last Spire at 11:39 and marked aside from its strong hook by the backing vocals of Rosalie Cunningham behind Dorrian‘s signature semi-spoken delivery and the chorus of “War, famine, drought, disease” repeated to memorable effect. There’s a mournful acoustic break in the middle, but by and large, Jennings, Carlson and Dixon sound big, thick and threatening, and when the acoustics (backed by organ) give way to the resurgent groove and faster push of the song’s peak movement, the effect is fluid and entirely metal. They end slow and offer a more mid-paced distortion on “Cathedral of the Damned,” which is marked out by the spoken guest vocal by Chris Reifert of Autopsy and the line “Living in the shadow of a damned cathedral,” which may or may not be Dorrian dealing with his own legacy and the prospect of moving on after ending the band. Either way, it’s the riff and the buzzsaw guitar tone that stands out most as the band meet their longest track with the shortest full song (that is, non-interlude or intro), slamming head-on into the chorus as they do with no diminished returns on the subsequent “Tower of Silence,” the pair affirming Cathedral‘s potency on all levels as they round out The Last Spire‘s first half, whether it’s the vocals, Jennings‘ righteous solo, the heavy nod of the bass and drums, or the overarching catchiness of the chorus itself: “A tower of silence/Is waiting for me/Looming before/An astral sea.”

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Cathedral Post Horrific Video for “Tower of Silence” from The Last Spire

Posted in Bootleg Theater on March 28th, 2013 by JJ Koczan

Lee Dorrian ain’t no dummy. He knows what time it is. And if their new video for the track “Tower of Silence” from their forthcoming final album, The Last Spire, is anything to go by, it’s about doom o’clock. The UK legends seem to be enjoying their farewell, and why not? Dorrian, guitarist Garry “Gaz” Jennings and bassist Scott Carlson already have a new project in the works called Septic Tank, and they’ll make their live debut in May, so what the hell? Live it up a little in the meantime. Certainly a victory lap well earned over the last 24 years.

Assuming the tracklisting stays as it was in the release announcement late last year, “Tower of Silence” is the centerpiece of The Last Spire, surrounded by three tracks on either side. I don’t want to make predictions about the rest of the record having only heard this one track, but at very least it bodes well.


Cathedral, “Tower of Silence” Official Video

The final promo video from the final album by UK Doom Legends Cathedral. Thanks to all our friends, followers and supporters over the year. This is for you!

Inspired by classic cult British Film Institutions such as Amicus and Hammer House of Horror, “Tower of Silence” was shot on location during the British Winter of 2012 at Gunnersbury Park Tower, London. It features a guest appearance from Purson’s Rosalie Cunningham, who places a symbolic black orchid on the tombstone of each member in the clips closing scenes.

Directed by UK based Paraffin City Productions, Tower of Silence will be the last full production promo video ever made by this British Doom Metal institution and is taken from their final album, The Last Spire, out April 29th on RISE ABOVE Records.

The Last Spire is released in the following territories;

UK via Rise Above Records on April 29th 2013.
USA via Metal Blade Records on April 30th.
Japan via Trooper Entertainment on May 1st.
Pre-order at iTunes from March 29th.
Die-hard vinyl editions will be available from the Rise Above webstore soon.

Lee Dorrian – Vocals
Garry Jennings – Guitar
Brian Dixon – Drums
Scott Carlson – Bass Guitar

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Cathedral’s The Last Spire Final Album Due in April

Posted in Whathaveyou on December 18th, 2012 by JJ Koczan

It can’t be an easy thing for Cathedral to put the cap on their 20-plus-year career, either from a personal standpoint or musically. They covered such a wide swath in their time, from the landmark and influential doom of their Forest of Equilibrium debut in 1991 to the excursions into psychedelic rock that the latter part of that decade brought with Caravan Beyond Redemption and Supernatural Birth Machine. Not all that glittered was gold, but even up to 2010’s classically progressive The Guessing Game (review here), Cathedral never ceased to forge ahead stylistically, and given the grimness of the track names for The Last Spire — what will reportedly be their final studio outing — that will perhaps remain true until the end.

Notable that they’re issuing the release through frontman Lee Dorrian‘s own Rise Above Records. This will mark the first time Cathedral handled one of their own records, and I’m hard pressed to think of a better way to go out than completely on your own terms. Here’s the album info:

Cathedral – The Last Spire scheduled for release in April. New video coming soon.

Yes, Cathedral are currently putting the finishing touches to what will be the last ever album from these British Doom legends. Produced by Lee Dorrian and Garry Jennings, with assistance from Jaime Gomez Arellano, The Last Spire is scheduled for an April 2013 release via Rise Above Records. Tracklisting is as follows;

01. Entrance to Hell
02. Pallbearer
03. Cathedral of the Damned
04. Tower of Silence
05. Infestation of Grey Death
06. An Observation
07. This Body, Thy Tomb.

Non-album track Vengeance of the Blind Dead will appear as a flexi disc on the front cover of Decibel magazine in their March issue (on sale February 7th).

The band also recently shot a fantastic promo for new track Tower of Silence,which will be available to view some time in January. The track will appear on an exclusive Rise Above Records CD sampler to be given away with Classic Rock Magazine towards the end of the same month.

In related news, Septic Tank, a band featuring Cathedral members Scott Carlson, Garry Jennings and Lee Dorrian will make their debut live appearance at The Garage, Highbury & Islington on Friday 3rd May.

They will be opening for Carlson’s legendary institution of grind, Repulsion, who will be make their debut headline UK performance. Special guests are Necrophagia. Tickets here.

Septic Tank will release a very limited vinyl only EP titled The Slaughter via MCR Records, Japan, to coincide with the show. They will have a limited number of colour copies on sale exclusively at the event.

Tracklisting as follows;
Side A
01. Fatal Eclipse
02. Forest of Bones
Side B
01. Gotesque Cavalry of Mankind
02. The Slaughter

Influences for Septic Tank range from Crucifix to Seige to Slaughter (Canada). More info soon.

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Cathedral, Anniversary: Once More into the Forest

Posted in Reviews on November 23rd, 2011 by JJ Koczan

Two full decades of doing anything is impressive, and what separates British doom mainstays Cathedral’s 20-year tenure from that of many others is that they never really stopped. Until now. The 2CD live album Anniversary – their first live record in all that time, released through frontman Lee Dorian’s own Rise Above Records (Metal Blade in North America) – captures a special show they did to mark 20 years on Dec. 3, 2010, at the 02 Academy Islington in London, and it’s part of the band tying up the loose ends of their existence, which they reportedly plan to end in 2012 with a final studio offering to be called The Last Spire and another London show Dec. 3, 2011. The Last Spire will be Cathedral’s 10th full-length, and though their catalog has had its ups and downs as far as fan reception, their stamp on the genre of doom is cast if only in the fact that when they started out, there was hardly a genre to speak of. As time passed and their catalog grew, landmark releases like 1993’s The Ethereal Mirror and 1995’s The Carnival Bizarre helped not only grow the band’s legacy, but that of doom at large, and through his work with Rise Above, Dorian in particular has been placed at the fore of tastemakers when it comes to what the term “doom” means and can be expanded to incorporate. That has little to do with the sound of Anniversary, but is relevant for context if nothing else.

The Anniversary show itself saw Cathedral basically play two concerts. The first, captured on the first disc here, brought back the original two-guitar lineup for a full front-to-back performance of their 1991 classic, Forest of Equilibrium. The second was Cathedral’s current incarnation – Dorian and guitarist Garry “Gaz” Jennings being the remaining founding members – doing a selection from the rest of the band’s discography. Disc one is an hour and disc two is just under 80 minutes, so the sheer amount of material on Anniversary is staggering, and for someone unfamiliar with the band, probably too intimidating to take on completely blind – but one doesn’t release something like Anniversary for the casual fan. Anniversary is for those who’ve stuck with the band through the highs and lows, or for the late comers whose appreciation for Cathedral is seen in the band’s influence on doom both British and worldwide. And as much as they’ve come to personify the band over the years, to hear Dorian and Jennings joined by guitarist Adam Lehan, bassist Mark Griffiths and drummer Mike Smail for a full run-through of Forest of Equilibrium is a fitting way to celebrate Cathedral’s time together, though the sound between the studio versions and their late-2010 live interpretations is more than a little different. Dorian’s vocals – though he’s obviously performed much of this material all along – have developed considerably since 1991, and though he’s always been more of a frontman than a technically-minded singer, his range and use of cleaner vocals can easily be heard progressing from album to album. Forest of Equilibrium was never going to be what it is on the record itself, but whether it’s “Commiserating the Celebration (of Life)” or the show highlights “Serpent Eve” and “Equilibrium,” Cathedral as They Were do the album justice and leave a high mark for Cathedral as They Are to live up to.

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Buried Treasure’s Disco Supernova

Posted in Buried Treasure on May 20th, 2011 by JJ Koczan

A couple weeks ago when I did Cathedral as the Frydee video, it wasn’t just because they’re awesome. Truth is, I had my evil little eye on a bootleg on eBay called Cosmic Funeral after the track from Statik Majik. I wound up winning it for about $20, and unlike most of the dumbass sight-unseen bootleg purchases I make, this one was completely worth every penny. The package showed up in the mail this week and had a full jewel case, silver-backed disc with professionally-printed artwork.

I can’t remember the last time I got a bootleg of this quality. It’s been a while, anyway. Even the ones you get these days with the really good inkjet jobs are usually CDRs, and I don’t really have a problem with that (obviously, or I wouldn’t buy them), but this whole thing just smacks of the ’90s. There’s no info on where the show was, but the art is killer and it says it was “recorded live on tour, 24-05-94,” and the internets tell me it was Milan, which since the disc says “Made in Italy” on it I’m inclined to believe.

In the classic CD bootleg fashion, there’s a mail order form in the liner notes. I was never brave enough to fill one of those out — I mean, what do you do if you spend $200 and never get sent anything? — but it’s a great reminder of what buying these kinds of discs used to be like, as opposed to now where you get charged twice as much for an inferior product. Blah blah blah, things aren’t like they used to be, harumph. I’m old.

The sound isn’t the best — it’s not bad; Lee Dorrian keeps asking for “more volume” — but just the thought at this point of owning a genuine Cathedral bootleg rules enough to make the expense worth it. There are reportedly a couple others out there, but I can’t imagine they’re easy to find, and with the band reportedly retiring after their next album, I wouldn’t think that’s about to change. The “death” of the compact disc has its ups and downs, but as a collector, I’m happy to get the chance to nerd out like this every now and again.

Here’s the “Cosmic Funeral’ video for anyone who didn’t get the “disco supernova” reference in the header above:

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Frydee Cathedral

Posted in Bootleg Theater on May 6th, 2011 by JJ Koczan

We close this week with some Cathedral, live from Japan in 1997. The track is “Ride,” from The Ethereal Mirror, and it’s amazing to me that there hasn’t been more news about the band’s impending retirement since it was announced earlier this year. Maybe that’s all there is to say until the farewell tour dates are finalized and the last album is made, or maybe Cathedral are the oft-forgot bastard sons of doom. I think if there has to be a legacy they leave behind, that’s one that will serve them well in the long run.

They’ve had their fair share of acclaim over the years, but consider it was basically two full decades before Saint Vitus got their due, as much as they’re getting it now. Anyway, I’m tired of everything having to be important. “Ride” is a cool track and I hope you dig the video. If not, there’s always next week.

Speaking of, next week I’ll have an update on the Blackwolfgoat discs — they’re in and the art looks great — as well as Six Dumb Questions with Nether Regions, a track premiere from Sourvein, and if I can work it out in time, an interview with Orange Goblin or Lo-Pan, plus reviews of new records from Primordial, Ramesses and others. Sounds like good times to me, however it all comes together.

I’m in Connecticut for at least the next night, and wherever you are, I hope you have an enjoyable and safe weekend.

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