Cathedral - The Guessing Game
Nuclear Blast
Progressive Doom Metal
Disc 1: 7 songs (43:00) Disc 2: 6 songs (41:00)
Release year: 2010
Cathedral, Nuclear Blast
Reviewed by Goat
Major event

Few events this year will stir quite as much excitement in the heart as a new Cathedral album, especially given the rumours around the release of The Garden Of Unearthly Delights that the band were planning on splitting up. Well, they haven't, and the resulting double-disc monster is everything that a Cathedral album should be, and quite a few things that it shouldn't - or so the detractors will claim. Instead of the revved-up 90s Stoner that forms the typical backdrop to the Cathedral sound, the band have instead delved into Lee Dorrian's infamous collection of obscure 70s prog, and The Guessing Game is a long, sprawling listen that will infuriate as many as it entertains. Be warned, this isn't just The Garden split up, but a radical reinterpretation of the Cathedral sound that is easily the most experimental thing the band have ever produced. Whiny reviews are already popping up on the net, complaining about the prog elements, the length, the songs not being 'good enough' - well, here's the flipside.

Bluntly, The Guessing Game is little short of genius in my opinion, and you really have to let it wash over you rather than sitting and listening for killer riffs, which are numerous, but are much better when discovered in time. You could listen twice, note the headbangers and dismiss the rest, but that's the musical equivalent of licking the icing from the top of the cake - The Guessing Game needs time and patience, and Cathedral have given the Metal scene enough joy over the years to be deserving of that. You can tell it's a step sideways from the moment that intro track Immaculate Misconception introduces synth and organs alongside the band's typical stomping riffs, and the wailing baby which closes the track ties in with the cover art in typical wince-inducing concept album style. Still, first track proper Funeral Of Dreams is virtually neanderthal in its initial caveman stoner stomp, only Dorrian's voice differentiating it from High On Fire - until he begins to... rap? Not really, but the spoken verses backed by acoustic strums and flute-like synths will annoy a lot of people, however kickass the following riffage and song as a whole are given time to take the whole eight-minute-plus track in. The guitar soloing and percussive experimentation alone are enough to take this into the premier league of Cathedral songs, and as relentlessly buried in quirk as it is, it's maddeningly enjoyable.

Gaz Jennings' awesome guitar playing is what makes a lot of this album great, as with all Cathedral albums, but Dorrian deserves his share of the glory. He's a very underrated vocalist, not least because he's not always in tune, but his voice carries such an air of enjoyment with it that it's impossible not to have fun. I read a review of this album which mentioned how joyous Cathedral sound, and even on the grumpier likes of Painting In The Dark it's impossible not to agree - that track especially still has plenty of cheerful instrumentation and a singalong chorus fit to make it a live anthem. The band are clearly having as great a time here as they did in the Hopkins (The Witchfinder General) music video, and their musical knowledge makes for great songwriting, when all is said and done. It's fitting that Dorrian, label head and devotee of retro music , would put his faith in the record-buying public so much to release a double-album in these financially insecure times; a leap of faith which should resonate in every heart reading. Complaints about the length of The Guessing Game are missing the point, for each and every track brings something to the table, so well thought-out is it, from the sitar in the background of the intro to Death Of An Anarchist to the bass-driven pounding towards the end of the track with Dorrian's plaintive vocals over the top.

I won't go through every track, as good as they all are - nothing over five minutes is less than killer, and the three shorter interlude pieces are all worth hearing, especially the title track's meandering proggisms. Edwige's Eyes is as classic a Cathedral tune as you could want, whilst Cats, Incense, Candles & Wine will raise eyebrows with its laid-back 70s rock vibe and, erm, the whistling. Still a great song, though, and I can't see anyone disliking the fiercely grooving assault of The Casket Chasers or the furious psychedelia of La Noche del Buque Maldito. The album finishes with the killer one-two of Requiem For The Voiceless, a nine minute exploration of animal rights via the medium of Doom, and finale Journeys Into Jade is a trip through Cathedral's career through the years, with album titles woven into the lyrics alongside musings as to what will be of the band in twenty and a hundred years' time. Whatever the answer to that question is, it's hard to pick out 'filler' tracks from the listen - there's really none to be found, and the album is little short of kickass and a sure-fire contender for my favourite 15 of the year. Ignore the complaints about the length, and man up - more of a good thing is to be celebrated! I mean, what's the matter with people nowadays? Pretend it's two different albums, if you must, but don't ignore the best Doom event of the year.

Killing Songs :
Funeral Of Dreams, Painting In The Dark, Death Of An Anarchist, Edwige's Eyes, The Casket Chasers, La Noche del Buque Maldito, Journeys Into Jade
Goat quoted 90 / 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 Ethereal Mirror reviewed by Adam and quoted 90 / 100
Cathedral - Endtyme reviewed by Charles and quoted 93 / 100
Cathedral - Supernatural Birth Machine reviewed by Charles and quoted 79 / 100
To see all 11 reviews click here
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