Cathedral - The Carnival Bizarre
Earache Records
Doom Metal
10 songs (1:02:48)
Release year: 1995
Cathedral, Earache Records
Reviewed by Goat
Archive review

It’s always seemed a shame that so few people are into Doom. Where Death or Black Metal have their own ways of plumbing the depths of human despair, few can pull it off like a good Doom band can. Of course, not everyone wants to be in despair all the time, which begs the question: why the hell don’t they just listen to Cathedral?

You’re probably aware of the band’s history by now – formed by Lee Dorrian after leaving Napalm Death, and so on – yet even those in the know seem to need a single fact rammed into their skulls: Cathedral is a brilliant, brilliant band. Few, if any, albums are below-par, yet just before the band took its experimental trip in the late nineties with the plain bonkers Supernatural Birth Machine and Caravan Beyond Redemption it released The Carnival Bizarre, a mix of classic Doom and up tempo Heavy Metal that’s as stunning now as it was when released back in 1995.

Personnel-wise, this had a classic line-up. Aside from Dorrian on vocals, there was former Acid Reign guitarist Gaz Jennings, Firebird’s bassist Leo Smee, and Horakane drummer Brian Dixon. All are on fire here, Jennings and Smee especially cranking out groovy riffs as if their lives depended on it. And the songs! Opening with a double-whammy of classic Cathedral songs, The Carnival Bizarre kicks off with Vampire Sun, and if the first few seconds of random yelling and guitar noodles put you off, then the killer Doom riff that bursts into life soon after will seize you like a Meth addiction. Dorrian’s yells of ‘are you hiiiigh?’ and ‘yeeeaah!’, Dixon’s deceptively simple drumming, an amazing solo from Jennings… this is perfection, and things only get better from then on. The following track is Hopkins (Witchfinder General), and if you’re not familiar with the name then you’ve lead a sad and miserable life indeed. It’s not just the Vincent Price samples that make it so good, nor the witch obsession that Dorrian has lyrically touched on throughout the band’s career – it’s simply a kickass Doom fucking Metal song.

The album continues with Utopian Blaster, a classic Sabbathy blast that features the god himself, Tony Iommi on guest guitar, and the track is another killer, a proggy structure full of pure molten Doom. There’s an especially awesome moment towards the end when Dorrian shouts ‘huggy bear – oh yeah!’ before the most heads-down, headbangiest riff you could ever wish to hear kicks into gear. A quick note on Dorrian’s vocals – far from the usual high Ozzified wails, his voice is gruff and rough, switching between loveably tuneless singing and over-the-top yells. It might take a bit of getting used to if you’re new, but once it has clicked you’ll be in love.

Night Of The Seagulls is a more atmospheric track, influenced by the classic Blind Dead horror films. Added 70’s synths and some vocal gymnastics from Dorrian make this yet another great song. It’s back to the upbeat for the eight-minute title track, which rocks out quite spectacularly towards the end. In fact, there isn’t a weak song on the album, from the psychedelic madness of Fangalactic Supergoria to the soft experimentation of Blue Light, to massive finale Electric Grave.

Although you’re guaranteed a good time with any album of Cathedral’s, The Carnival Bizarre has an excellent variety of songs and more than enough classic moments to make it a necessary purchase for any Doom fan.

Killing Songs :
Vampire Sun, Hopkins (Witchfinder General), Utopian Blaster, Night Of The Seagulls, Carnival Bizarre, Blue Light, Electric Grave
Goat quoted 90 / 100
Adam quoted 85 / 100
Other albums by Cathedral that we have reviewed:
Cathedral - In Memoriam reviewed by Andy and quoted no quote
Cathedral - The Last Spire reviewed by Charles and quoted 92 / 100
Cathedral - The Guessing Game reviewed by Goat and quoted 90 / 100
Cathedral - The Ethereal Mirror reviewed by Adam and quoted 90 / 100
Cathedral - Endtyme reviewed by Charles and quoted 93 / 100
To see all 11 reviews click here
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