Throughout their 20+ year career, Cathedral have delivered some of the finest doom & stoner rock/metal but have always seemed to evolve from album to album. Their releases have ranged from their earlier doom laden efforts to where they are now with a more upbeat and groove-based sound.
However, their ninth effort, The Guessing Game, is an 80+ minute double album that blends the classic elements of Cathedral with the some outside elements of a jazzy, psychedelic and progressive nature. If you come in with the pre-concieved notion that this is going to be 80 minutes of old doomy-like Cathedral, you may end up confused and be left wondering what the hell just hit you.
The heavy guitar riffs in Immaculate Misconception that automatically made me start banging my head with the rhythm made me think that I was in for 80 minutes of some heavy and doomy goodness, and I was quite excited when the riffs carried on into Funeral Of Dreams. But the musical wheel took a sharp turn into something that I was not expecting; it sounds like music from a 1970s childrens cartoon with vocalist Lee Dorrian taking on an odd vocal style. This threw me off totally, making me think this was going to be something completely off-the-wall. I honestly wanted to write this review off then and there. But the next track Painting In The Dark is like a ray of hope, as it brings the riffs and the Cathedral sound back to the ears of the listener.
After soaking the album in, it seems that there are a few sides to the musical coin here so to speak. The straight-ahead Cathedral sound of old, which is evident in such tracks as Edwige's Eyes; the aforementioned experimental/progressive side in The Guessing Game; and the more straight-ahead rock sounds of their late 90s period in tracks such as Death Of An Anarchist. The latter has one of guitarist Gary Jennings' finest lead guitar passages of late, in my opinion, featured on it. It does seem, at times, that a double album was a little bit too much: some of the songs could be trimmed down to fit on to one album.
The Guessing Game is like a musical pot. It seems like a bit everything has been thrown in, some may not like some of the musical ingredients thrown in, so to speak, but for the most part it is quite a solid album that requires a few solid listens to grasp it as a whole.
If you are a Cathedral veteran, you will definitely enjoy this album, but if you are new to Cathedral or a casual listener, you may want to start with one of the older albums such as The Ethereal Mirror and/or one of the later albums from the 90s such as Caravan Beyond Redemption; if you like those, then you could possibly take on The Guessing Game.
Cathedral's The Guessing Game is out now on Nuclear Blast/Riot.