Cathedral - Supernatural Birth Machine
Earache Records
Doom Metal
11 songs (57:57)
Release year: 1996
Cathedral, Earache Records
Reviewed by Charles
Archive review
By 1996, and their fourth album, Cathedral were a slightly different band than the one that released Forest of Equilibrium five years earlier. Their sound was now lighter, and far more upbeat, appearing more as a rifftastic blues-inspired jam band, rather than the scarier, oppressive doom metal of the immediate post-Napalm Death years.

There is obvious continuity in many respects. They could hardly be mistaken for anyone else, especially with those vocals. And though the riffs are less nasty and generally faster, they are often sculpted with the same quirky sense of rhythm and melody. This is perhaps most clearly true on a track such as Cyclops Revolution, one of the most relentlessly catchy songs they have released to date. But the links with the past here are becoming clearer. Whilst Forest really takes the sound of bands such as Pentagram in a new direction, this one seems a lot more faithful to the original models, and at times the slightly insulting “retro” term could easily apply.

It probably suffers, with hindsight, for following so quickly on from the great Carnival Bizarre, which was extremely eclectic, but which also hinted at this sort of direction. But whilst shoutalong stomps have become the order of the day here on the cuddly and easygoing Supernatural, Carnival was still (to an extent) shrouded in an antiquated, murkily threatening ambiance. There are moments where the tunes here can sound slightly hackneyed or obvious; there’s nothing really wrong with Stained Glass Horizon, for example, but you get the feeling other, less special, doom bands could do the same thing. More distinctive is Nightmare Castle, in which darkly lumbering, comically eerie riffs probably preceding what was to come a couple of albums later with Endtyme. There are also points here where Dorrian’s vocal delivery starts straying towards self-parody, which can grate a little. At other times, though, his exaggeratedly demented whoopings really add to the charm, such as on Fireball Demon (“wooooooooooooyeah it’s a Fireball Demon!”).

Overall, the record is a lot more fun than a great deal of the rest of their output. It’s lighthearted, and filled raucous solos, funny lyrics about sci-fi characters (Dr. Zaius!), and even the odd hand-clapping breakdown. It rocks really, really hard, of course, as you would expect from this band. But, for some listeners, it probably misses the grimy dark heart of some of their other offerings. Whilst this doesn’t detract from it as a blues-laden heavy metal album in its own right, it makes it a little bit less unique. That said some of it, such as Phaser Quest, is so damn catchy that it makes you wonder why you need darker music in your life anyway. Even if this record might not darken the atmosphere as much as some would like, this is a band it’s very difficult not to love.

Killing Songs :
Cyclops Revolution, Fireball Demon, Phaser Quest
Charles quoted 79 / 100
Goat quoted 83 / 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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