Indeed, it is a time for sadness and reflection as well as a time for celebration, as “The Last Spire” represents the final outing of doom legends Cathedral; sad, obviously, as the band are retiring and we will no longer be graced by their presence, but worth celebrating as “The Last Spire” is one hell of a swansong after 24 years and ten studio albums.
Beginning with ‘Entrance to Hell’, a three-minute exercise in setting up an atmosphere if ever there was one, ‘Pallbearer’, the first track proper, takes you straight back to the band’s beginnings as the band grind out a funereal dirge complete with female chanting, acoustic breakdown, proggy time-changes and guitarist Gaz Jennings guitar sounding more distorted than it has done for some time. It’s a brave move for an opening track and one that serves to remind you that before all the swinging flares, 60’s psychedelia and cries of “Huggy Bear – Oh Yeah!” Cathedral were instrumental in laying down the foundations of doom in a musical climate going giddy over hyper-fast thrash and death metal.
Although some of those quirky touches are audible in the very heavy ‘Cathedral of the Damned’, albeit in a more subtle way than the likes of ‘Midnight Mountain’ or ‘Utopian Blaster’. The grand majesty of “Tower of Silence” brings the mood back down to pure Black Sabbath worship before the nine-minutes of haunted melancholy that is ‘Infestation of Grey Death’ brings in some gently-picked acoustic guitar amongst the heavy riffage and drummer Brian Dixon’s busy kit battering. ‘An Observation’ brings in some of the prog and space-rock vibe that was present on the band’s mighty previous album “The Garden of Unearthly Delights” but without overloading the senses before some maniacal laughing from vocalist Lee Dorrian and album closer ‘This Body, Thy Tomb’ closes the lid once and for all with nearly nine-minutes of straight-up bruising doom.
Coming full circle, “The Last Spire” bookends Cathedral’s career nicely with the band’s classic debut album “Forest of Equilibrium”, with enough of the flavours the band sprinkled into all their albums in between to give it the feel of a eulogy of the band’s output. It is very sad to see them go but to see them go out on a high like this is the most fitting tribute that this most consistently entertaining and, quite frankly, brilliant band could have. They may be gone but we can still worship at their altar and remember one of the best bands that this country has produced in the last quarter of a century… stuff it, make that ever.