Cathedral officially found it's start late 1989,when
founder members Lee Dorrian and Mark (Griff) Griffiths were discussing their
love of bands like Trouble, Pentagram, Sabbath ,St.Vitus , Melvins, Candlemass
etc. The setting was at a Carcass show in Cardiff, where Griff was roadie and in
charge off the projections of gore for that band. After more than several beers
the pair came to the conclusion that they should form a band in the vein of
their heroes and thus the idea was born.
The next morning the pair awoke with painful hangovers and the nagging question – “Ok, we're gonna form a Doom band, but who the hell is gonna play in it besides us??” Death Metal was almost reaching its peak at this time and not too many people (let alone musicians) shared the pairs love of all things slow.
Griff had been editor of exclusively Doom Metal fanzine, Under The Oak, a copy of which he had sold to Garry (Gaz) Jennings almost a year before at a Candlemass show. Gaz had played/sang/produced the doom-thrash demo Sorrow's Epitaph under the moniker Morbid Doom. The pair had kept loose contact and Dorrian had already been introduced to Jennings via Dan Lilker sometime earlier at a Nuclear Assault/Acid Reign show.
Both Griff & Dorrian had been suitably impressed by Gaz's obvious love & dedication of Doom Metal and needless to say, he became target number 1!
The bands first rehearsal took place at Rich Bitch Studios in March 1990. The line up being Dorrian -vocals, Griff – rhythm guitar, Gaz – main guitar and initial drummer Andy Baker, who had previously played in Sacrilege, Varukers & Cerebral Fix amongst others. This rehearsal consisted mainly of Gaz & Griff jamming some Vitus tunes and playing around with a few riff ideas to get a vibe. After a couple more rehearsals, it became clear that Andy wasn't too enthusiastic about the slower than slow torturous wah-wah drudgery that was grinding out of the duo's crumbling amps, and was replaced by Coventry drummer Ben Mochrie who had played in several local hardcore bands. After a fruitless search for a bassist, Griff decided to switch from six strings to four. Such was the bands love of the twin guitar harmonies of early Trouble, they decided that the line up wouldn't be complete without the addition of a second guitarist, who came in the shape of Adam Lehan, who joined just prior to the recording of the bands first demo.
When Cathedral first came onto the underground scene they were churning out the slowest and most pain filled dirges the world had heard. This in itself was a surprise considering that it's members Gaz Jennings and Adam Lehan had both been a part of the comical thrash outfit Acid Reign and vocalist Lee Dorrian had just departed from grind-core kings Napalm Death.
Their first release, In Memorium, was a self produced demo released through Lee's then beginning Rise Above Records label and it gained them underground world attention. Following its release, the band completed several tours with acts as diverse as S.O.B., Saint Vitus, Morbid Angel, Young Gods and Cranes.
The following year and one drummer less, they were picked up by Earache UK and released Forest of Equilibrium, which featured ex Dream Death and current Penance drummer, Mike Smail guesting behind the kit. As with their demo, Forest of Equilibrium was well received by the underground metal scene. It also attracted the attention of Columbia Records in the states.
In 1992 Cathedral recruited another ex member of Acid Reign, Drummer Mark Wharton, and recorded the Soul Sacrifice EP, which first began to show the direction their music was headed in. That direction displayed a more retro '70s influenced hard rock sound or "stoner doom" if you will. The band went out on the infamous Gods Of Grind tour, alongside labelmates Carcass ,Entombed and Confessor. After this the band returned to Europe to tour ,once more, with Saint Vitus.
With Soul Sacrifice being released in the States by Columbia Records, the band embarked upon their first trek across the Atlantic to tour with friends Napalm Death, Carcass & Brutal Truth. The lengthy tour was known as The Campaign For Musical Destruction, and was a resounding success. Unfortunately , the potential strains of major label pressure and touring had taken its toll on founder member Griff, who decided to quit the band following the tour.
At this time, the band hired the services of former Cronos guitarist Mike Hickey as a live bassist . The band played at the CMJ in New York alongside Trouble, COC, & The Obsessed, followed by a trip to Israel at the Christmas end of '92. Also just before the end of that year, the band played a series of dates in Germany with Napalm Death, Trouble, Obsessed & Crowbar. This paved the way for the monumental Ethereal Mirror (which originally had the pre-release studio title Decadence, although I have a magazine where it was advertised as Journey into Jade). Without a permanent bass player, it was down to Gaz to play on the album.
Response to Ethereal Mirror was generally ecstatic, with occasional references such as 'The next big thing in metal!' The band were not so ecstatic and slightly bemused by what they had recorded.
Upon release of the album, the band embarked a European tour with Sleep and Penance. Also appearing on the German shows were Cannibal Corpse and Fear Factory.
Following this, Cathedral made their live debut in Japan , alongside friends Brutal Truth, which turned out to be a resounding success. This was to be the final string of dates with Mike Hickey, who later went on to join Carcass.
Mike was replaced grindcore legend Scott Carlson who was to become an important member of the band, but unfortunately never got to play on an album.
By this time Cathedral began to discover the woes of big recording labels. Columbia wanted the band to tour hard, despite the band questioning the labels choice of tour, the band succumb to their demands and opened up on a long tour with Merciful Fate and Flotsam & Jetsam. This tour led to strains within band personnel and they weren't exactly happy with touring conditions. After several incidents, Cathedral were asked to leave the tour. Apparently Dorrian had announced that he thought King Diamond was a 'pussy' at one of the few shows that Cathedral managed to play where Fate had pulled out of.
Word got back to King who had demanded an apology from Dorrian, who flatly refused. The band left the tour in Florida and by this time they were more than happy to do so.
Adam Lehan had decided that he was gonna quit the band during the Fate tour, for personal, musical and medical reasons, but fulfilled the obligation of touring the States a couple of months later with Rob Halfords Fight. The tour was a lot more easy going and the band enjoyed it, but the damage had already been done. Lehan played his last show with Cathedral alongside Pentagram, Iron Man and 13 at the Grand in New York on Dec 7th 1993. This was also to be the last show with drummer Mark Wharton.
Prior to the Fight tour the band had entered the studio once more with the desire to record something a bit more raw and off the wall than the bigger produced Ethereal Mirror album. Testing Columbia's promise of 'free creativity' ,Cathedral released Statik Majik in 1994 in the UK. This 40 minute EP featured the epic "Voyage of the Homeless Sapien". This track alone took up half the ep's time. It also featured a vast variety of musical instruments and objects, plus Lee's tripped out ad-lib in its closing with a flushing toilet no less! The Columbia label released the EP as Cosmic Requiem in the states. It featured different cover art and one alternate track to the UK equivalent ("A Funeral Request-Rebirth" instead of "Midnight Mountain"). Cathedral also fought tooth and nail when Columbia tried to omit "Voyage of the Homeless Sapien" in favour of "Fountain of Innocence" because "Voyage of..." wasn't the kind of song that could be easily marketed to the metal buying public (Columbia had released a cassette demo with the name Innocence Requiem without the bands knowledge). This is when the honeymoon period with Columbia showed first signs of waning.
The band had been offered the support slot on the forthcoming European Black Sabbath tour. Being two members down, this did not deter Lee ,Gaz & Scott's obvious desire to want to play alongside the masters, so they approached Pentagram members Joe Hassalvander(drums) and Victor Griffin(guitar) to see if they fancied filling in. They both agreed and the tour went ahead along with new US band Godspeed. The tour was a lot of fun and the band became quite friendly with Tony and Geezer. Unfortunately things didn't quite work out with Victor,who went home from the tour early after a show in Budapest.
Continuing the tour as a four piece was a bit worrying for the band, but on the first night with only one guitarist, Tony Iommi approached the band and said they sounded a hell of a lot better. This was all the reassurance they needed, and is probably the reason that the band is still a four piece to this day!
The rest of the tour went well, but the band were unsure of their future with a line up, so were forced to cancel a tour of Ireland which was scheduled not long after.
Bassist Scott Carlson was living in Chicago and the band had decided to stay as a four piece. The guys had been friends of Barry Stern from Trouble, who also lived in Chicago. With offers of gigs coming in all the time, the band asked Barry if he would like to help out for a while. This also meant that he and Scott could jam whilst they away from England.
Barry played a few UK shows and festivals in Belgium(Viva Rock), France and Sweden(Hultsfred). The band were still looking for a permanent drummer, and had held auditions in England, but just couldn't seem find the right person for the job. Whilst still being signed to Columbia having a cross Atlantic line up didn't seem to be too much of a problem. The record company were anxious to hear new material from the band, and Scott had become pals with a drummer called Dave Hornyak, who also lived in Chicago and wanted to try out for the band. It was decided that Lee and Gaz would relocate to Chicago for a month or so to work on new material and try out Dave. Rehearsals went well and things were starting to look good so the band were happy with a new line up and played a one off show in Chicago before Lee and Gaz returned back to England.
Towards the end of the year, Dave & Scott came over to England and the band played a few shows with Electric Wizard and Mourn. Then they went into Rhythm studios to record a five track demo of new songs.
Everything was looking good and the band were happy with the new line up, and positive about the future. Then one day just before Christmas, Lee received a phone call from their A & R man in America saying that Columbia no longer wanted to work with the band. The news was hardly a surprise to the band, but it was a big blow ,as it meant that they would have to lose American members Scott and Dave. It was especially hard for Lee & Gaz to think about losing Scott, because they had become very close and been through a lot together. They tried to think of ways to make it work, but ultimately lack of finances made it impossible and Scott was forced to leave.
This was a very down period for Lee & Gaz who were now the only two members left, and were forced to seriously question the feasibility of continuing. The next months were just full of new business and political horror stories that the pair were confronted with on a daily basis. The pair were determined not to be defeated by the powers that be, and decided that Cathedral was too important just to give up. So after a seemingly endless period of dark days, the band decided to hold auditions to find permanent UK members for a second time. This time the auditions were more fruitful and Lee and Gaz were very happy to discover the talents of drummer Brian Dixon & bassist Leo Smee, both of whom were welcomed into The Coven.
There was no time to hang around, because exactly one week after auditions the band were straight out on tour alongside Deicide and Brutal Truth, where they played a selection of new songs.
Shortly after this ,the band played at La Folies festival in France, and performed just prior to Van Halen at the Roskilde festival in Denmark. This now toured and tight doom foursome entered Parkgate Studios in Hastings to record the gargantuan Carnival Bizarre. An album that merged the free rockin' 70s spirit with the doom they lived for. One of the tracks on this release, "Utopian Blaster", even features guitar solo's from Tony Iommi of Black Sabbath.
The album bought Cathedral back into the limelight, and was met once more with critical acclaim. The band toured extensively in Europe with Crowbar ,Scandinavia with Motorhead , UK and Australia with Paradise Lost and made a very successful return visit to Japan. Getting deeper into the seventies/experimental vibe , Cathedral released another EP following the albums release. Titled Hopkins (The Witchfinder General), the EP featured one song (the title track) from their previous release. It also had a cover of "Fire", an old '60s tune by The Crazy World Of Arthur Brown. The surprise which people should have come to expect from this innovative band, was the gothic disco influenced "Purple Wonderland" and the funky blues rocker "Devil's Summit" (which featured saxophone and Hammond ,amongst other things). Reviews for this release were mixed.
It was also in this time that Cathedral returned to the States for a tour with doom legends Trouble, which was sponsored by High Times and Jagermeister!! Somewhere in the middle of this tour Trouble decided they couldn't go on as a group and they bailed out of the tour after a show in San Antonio, leaving Cathedral stranded in the USA.
The band managed to play a couple of headlining shows, borrowing local bands equipment. They failed to complete all of the dates due to lack of funds, and returned home after the New York show at Wetlands.
After touring solidly for almost a year, the band rather mistakingly decided to go into the studio without much preparation at all. Exactly one year after the recording of Carnival Bizarre, the band returned to Parkgate studios to record Supernatural Birth Machine with only literally one week of preparation between the end of the tour and studio time.
To say that the band were under rehearsed is an understatement!! Dorrian was actually writing a lot of the lyrics literally minutes before they were recorded ,with no rehearsal whatsoever!
This LP release sparked criticism in that some felt it below Cathedral's usually well produced standards ,whilst others praised it as one of the bands best. The American version further complicated things when Earache USA completely changed the albums packaging in an attempt to cash in on the so-called "stoner sound" (when will record label suits learn to leave the bands alone?!). The band knew nothing of Earache Record USA's decision to do this and send apologies to anyone ripped off by this "inferior package".
Prior to the release of Supernatural…… the band went off to South America, for a tour that was scheduled to take in Peru ,Chile ,Argentina and Venezuela . The Cathedral curse struck them once more ! First stop was Columbia ,where the band were scheduled to stop for three weeks . Shows were apparently amazing and the band enjoyed themselves and the country ,until things started to go wrong.
A series of events occurred which posed a danger to the bands well being, ending in Lee and Leo being both held at gunpoint with rifles to their head by Police, who fleeced the of all their possessions and threatened them with imprisonment.
After a series of other horror stories, the promoter decided to disappear with all the money that was supposed to take them to the other Countries. The band decided to cut the tour short and return back to England. With a seemingly steady line up and an ever growing fan base, the band continued with a heavy touring schedule which saw them touring Europe with My Dying Bride, return trips to Japan and Australia, Greece amongst others.
Following these said tours, the Cathedral machine came to a grinding halt. The band had no choice but to wait for the label suits to decide what they would or wouldn't release next (contracts and shit).
For three years almost nothing was heard from this now legendary band. Many feared this was the end. I even heard a rumour that Lee was broke and an alcoholic! But these were all unsubstantiated.
The band played at the Dynamo festival in1998, then later that year it was announced that a new Cathedral LP would hit the streets early the following year. Caravan Beyond Redemption was that LP, gathering all the various elements of the previous LP's and EP's and adding a twist all of it's own.
This album again took them out on the road, touring Europe with Orange Goblin and Terra Firma. They also returned to Japan(with O. Goblin) ,Australia and Greece, then played various other UK shows.
It was then announced that the Cathedral home video Our God Has Landed, originally recorded and released in Japan would be re-released with all the bands prior promotional videos as a bonus. Further more, In Memorium was to re-surface as In Memoriam. Still on the original Rise Above label, the re-released demo was repackaged.
Tacked on to the end of the essential EP was a five track live recording from 1991 (which were alternate recordings from the Mexican released bootleg called Echoes of Dirges From the Nave). Not satisfied with a mere re-release of their demo, Cathedral also have re-released the rarities Soul Sacrifice and Statik Majik EP's as a two-on-one CD deal in the UK and USA. One EP has been long out of print in the States and the other available only as an import (and were very welcome by the many fans who missed them the first time). Cathedral returned a couple of years later in 2001 with the release of Endtyme ,which saw the band quite possibly at their heaviest so far! The production was a lot more stripped down, and the band displayed a slightly more return to the roots vibe. Also, in early 2001 cathedral saw their first dvd release. That being the Our God Has Landed video package. Southern Lord records have also brought into exsistance a 7" ep with two rare tracks from the Endtyme sessions. The ep with "Gargoylian" b/w "Earth in the Grip of A Skeletal Hand" comes on standard black wax plus ultra cool yellow or blue wax.
Since the recording of Endtyme the band once again hit the road, this time touring Europe and Japan with Rise Above Records artists Hangnail. They also made a one stop visit to the States to play the New Jersey Metalfest. Later in that year the band toured Europe with old friends Entombed.
The release of Endtyme also marked the end of the bands long history with Earache records. After ten years of ups and downs the band were free from contract. They since decided to accept a deal offered to them by Dreamcatcher Records. The beginning of 2002 saw the band return to the rehearsal room in Liverpool to commence the writing of their seventh full length release ,Seventh Coming ,which is now in the Stores! Definitely a lot more varied than the out and out nihilism contained within Endtyme's dark grooves ,Seventh Coming takes the band on a more contrasting journey.
With a dynamic production ,once again courtesy of Kit Woolven , and sleeve art created by the bands un official extra member Dave Patchett, the band are once more ready to hit the road.
Where will the cosmic horsemen of doom go from here?! We can only watch and wait. Doom on!
words Lee Dorrian adapted from original draft by Jon Tombsmoker