Now, I’m not going to sit here and say that I’ve been with the group through thick and thin. In fact, that couldn’t be further from the truth. The first time I ever heard cathedral was around 1999. The local used CD store had a shelf for rare and out of print releases, and on it was The Ethereal Mirror, their second outting through Earache Records. At the time, I simply couldn’t get into it. I actually downright hated that album. Yes, as time went on, I grew to appreciate it, but not until I explored their music a little more.
I honestly held off on Cathedral for quite some time after that, and it’s a decision I completely regret at this point. It wasn’t until I came across a copy of The VIIth Coming in the music vault at WSFX FM, back in the days of my being a DJ and their Metal Director, that I decided to give them another shot. This album really grabbed my attention, and had me looking into the band a little more. I happened upon Supernatural Birth Machine at a local CD store in the used section, and figured I should probably pick it up while it was there, especially for three dollars (US). It was a decision I definitely don’t regret, and is still one I recomend giving a spin. Then came The Garden of Unearthly Delights, hands down my favorite Cathedral album of their discography, and then finally Forest of Equilibrium, having heard the original pressing years ago, but the latest reissue only recently.
And, well, here we are, staring down the pre-dug hole that marks Cathedral‘s final resting place the same way many of us did with Sentenced. The Last Spire marks the tenth, and final, full-length album to be released from these UK legends, bringing a storied career to a proper close. I’ve been alright up to this point with their decision to call it a day, but it wasn’t until I checked my inbox to find this review copy sitting there that everything hit me at once: This is the last new album they’ll probably put out. Well, until some festival ten, twenty years from now pays a ton of a money for a reunion show and they decide to keep things going from there.
With a heavy heart, I reluctantly put the album in. In a way, I thought to myself that, if I don’t, then perhaps this fantastic group I once shunned as I continued to expand my taste in Metal would still have that one new album I never got to hear. But, let’s face it, this is something that simply needed to be done. I sat there listening to the instrumental introduction “Entrance to Hell,” feeling overwhelmed with a medieval time period as the dead collector shouts to “Bring out your dead.” though laughing inside thinking back to Monty Python and the Holy Grail, mumbling to myself “I feel happy! I feel happy!” But, this bled right into the song “Pallbearer,” which is perhaps one of the darkest, most twisted Cathedral songs since anything off Forest of Equilibrium. I sat there in awe, laying my head back, and letting the crushing slower pace, as well as subtle orchestral bridges in the chorus, sweep me away. Off-key singing be damned, this track was simply epic from start to finish.
And, yet, after having my spirit destroyed by “Pallbearer,” I immediately stopped listening. Why? In all honesty, I really don’t know. It could have been that I didn’t want to ruin the rest of this album with my fiancee running the hair dryer or shouting to me from the other room with the television airing yet another Judge Mathis re-run. It might have been the lack of silence from the kids next door and upstairs re-creating the Thunderdome from the moment I woke up to the second I left for work. Or, perhaps it was simply fear. Maybe I’m just too afraid to continue. It’s a rare occurrance, especially so early on, but The Last Spire is an album I simply feel unworthy to hear. The last album that made me feel this way was Skyforger by Amorphis, and that was way back in 2009.
No matter what, after just one song, and even before hearing that, The Last Spire is an album that deserves my full, uninterrupted attention. With what could possibly be the band’s finest hour here in my hands, I cannot picture listening to it any other way. Cathedral has sent me on a wild ride the past ten years of being an actual fan, and it’s hard to say goodbye so soon. But, there’s still older material out there for me to discover either way. So, while the band is literally calling this the death of Cathedral, for me, and perhaps many others, this is more like watching the band enter an the old folks home, where I can still visit and be regailed with their stories of old…