Classic Review: Cathedral “Forest of Equilibrium” [Earache Records]

Classic Review: Cathedral “Forest of Equilibrium” [Earache Records]

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Score
Summary
British humor at its best
87 %
User Rating : 4.8 (1 votes)

While I’m rather fond of Forest of Equilibrium there are several things unclear about it. Why does that goofy purple creature on the cover artwork sticks out its tongue? Is Lee Dorrian trying to sing or to growl? Are these riffs meant to move tracks onward or to let segments sink in? I could go on and on.

Nonetheless Forest of Equilibrium was my introduction to doom metal and hearing ‘’Ebony Tears’’ for the first time was quite a rite of passage. The track felt a lot slower to what I was used to at the time, yet there was something about it that just made perfect sense. The vocals sounded deranged, bizarre, yet appealing and the production was muddy, but still somehow suited this style. It took me a while before I could link Cathedral to any other bands and while I’m nowadays able to make some associations, I’ll argue that Cathedral were very much a band of their own at this point. Sure, at times you’ll recognize those Sabbath-esque groove-laden riffs and the fast bits of ‘’A Funeral Request’’ feel connected to early Trouble, yet most of the compositions themselves fall somewhere between the up-tempo doom metal of old and the more funereal paced doom metal that was to come as the 90’s progressed. On paper this might sound confusing and not even ideal, but Cathedral make it work by blending hefty riffs with surreal atmosphere like no other.

To return to the questions I had asked in the first paragraph it becomes clear that Forest of Equilibrium is quite an oddball of an album though. I’m not even sure in what category the vocals belong to, yet they’re obviously a lot uglier and extreme when compared to the charismatic vocals of an Ozzy or a Bobby Liebling. Lee Dorrian sounds like a wanderer who has entered a forest long time ago, never found his way out of it and lost his mind in the end. The riffs aren’t locked in a certain pacing, yet Cathedral never dwell on at their slowest, nor do they rock out for a long time either once they pick up the pacing – making it hard to tell what the function of the riffs really comes down to. The most obvious exception is short and up-tempo ‘’Soul Sacrifice’’ that evokes the image of the band members banging their heads instead of moving around in a trance (something that comes to mind during the other tracks). It doesn’t exactly fit in with the rest of the longer tracks and therefor is my least favorite off Forest of Equilibrium.

The remaining songs all are all far superior; each evoking several horrific images and sharing their own unique characteristics, however if you ask me Forest of Equilibrium reaches its emotional peak near its end. ‘’Equilibrium’’ firstly embraces that familiar Tony Iommi-esque groove Sabbath’s 70’s stuff was full of, yet as the track progresses it takes a far more sinister turn and if those eerie guitar wails that end the track don’t make you feel doomed then I don’t know what will.

Eerie, yet dynamic Cathedral were a force to reckon with here. On a more comical note I can’t be the only one who thinks there’s something ironic about their debut’s title. After all this album is called Forest of Equilibrium; British humor at its best.

Release date: December 6th, 1991

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Colin

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