CATHEDRAL
"The Garden of Unearthly Delights"

(Nuclear Blast)

01. Dearth AD 2005
02. Tree of Life and Death
03. North Berwick Witch Trials
04. Upon Azrael's Wings
05. Corpsecycle
06. Fields of Zagara
07. Oro the Manslayer
08. Beneath a Funeral Sun
09. The Garden
10. Proga-Europa

RATING: 8/10

Some things in life, you can depend on. A CATHEDRAL album is usually one of them. Dave Patchett art, Lee Dorrian's mad warble, delightfully silly movie samples, and most importantly, lurching, fetid SAB grooves grinding in first gear across the English countryside in varying degrees of doominess. Though they set an early benchmark for harrowing slow dirges with their 1990 landmark "Forest of Equilibrium" (still one of the most depressive, haunting albums ever vomited from the earth), CATHEDRAL have more or less rocked it out ever since.

Count "The Garden of Unearthly Delights" among the better efforts in their extensive catalog. The guitar and bass tones are delightfully filthy, perhaps helped along by producer Warren Ryker (DOWN, CROWBAR). There's a serious kick in the ass in the energy department here, as well — hell, "Oro the Manslayer" (whatta title!) is positively blistering by CATHEDRAL standards, with a loose, manic, off-the-floor feel to it — and man, that bass breakdown in the middle! Unbelievable. Dorrian gets positively melodic (again, by CATHEDRAL standards) in some of the more midtempo numbers, while screaming maniacally and crooning like a creepy madman in "Beneath a Funeral Sun" — the man, and the band, sound rejuvenated after several years' break and a new label home.

The centerpiece of the album, of course, is the 26-minute "The Garden", the most ambitious piece of work since the band said "fuck you" to Columbia Records with the equally-lengthy "The Voyage of the Homeless Sapien" a decade ago. Brimming with disjointed parts, a smorgasbord of awesome riffs, female vocals, and even a leaden doom interlude around the eight-and-a-half-minute mark that'll soil the undies of anyone pining for that "Forest of Equilibrium" sludge stagger, it's a glorious monument to wretched metallic excess, the sort of eccentric, hedonistic freakout that only CATHEDRAL can pull off. It's definitely a "put the headphones on and bliss out" kind of album-side rocker, by turns funky, proggy, agonizingly doomy, and downright weird — in short, it's CATHEDRAL at their best.

Though at times they've veered a little far in the bouncy "disco doom" direction in their career, and other times they've immersed themselves in nihilistic crunge apocalypse, on "The Garden of Unearthly Delights" we find CATHEDRAL putting the pedal to the floor and rocking out with relatively joyous abandon (at least till "The Garden", when they take a left turn into insanity). The result is one of their most immediate, viscerally satisfying albums in quite a while, and one that re-establishes them as one of our most unique and important metal bands, doom or otherwise.

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