The Guessing Game

The Guessing Game, for all of its metal pedigree has (like the band Cathedral itself) roots equally as deep in early (read: Syd Barrett era) Pink Floyd as in doom progenitor Black Sabbath. In fact, an open-eared listener will hear (uh oh… sit down, metal people) references to ‘70s-‘80s Britpop bands like XTC and The Stranglers on this album. Seriously… if you know anything of the latter of those bands, listen to track two and tell me that it’s not coming to life in 1978 in a Guildford off-license. I’ll call you a liar if you do.

That’s right, people: this ain’t exactly the Cathedral doom you’ve come to know and love. It’s a totally different three-headed beast… and that does not mean that it’s Cerberus guarding the gates of hell once imagined by Messrs. Butler, Iommi, Osbourne, and Ward. Nope… this is a ground glass-spiked cup of fluorescent Jell-O. And you’ll slurp it down and have no freakin’ idea how to categorize this experience. It’s absolutely metal, and it’s not metal at all; it’s early ‘80s new wave-tinged rock, and it’s a million miles from that; it’s late ‘60s psychedelia, and it’s brand new and very modern. No wonder Lee Dorrian and his crew get sick of being labeled “eccentric” or “unpredictable.” Who can blame them: they’re eccentric and unpredictable.

I have to admit to not having a lot of experience with the Cathedral catalogue prior to spinning this recent—and wonderful, truly great—album. So, I found myself wondering about the Cathedral manifesto… and therein, I found the band so ready and willing to anticipate and answer a new listener’s questions. The album’s final track is both a musical history of the band (were they expecting new listeners, or what?) and then—after the requisite “it’s really the end of the disc, people” silence-as-fakeout—Dorrian’s short spoken word explanation of the album’s art work, the band’s raison d’etre, and even the speaker’s pronouncement on his own mortality. On first listen it might seem ham-handed, but it really seems consistent with the band’s approach to its music: open, honest, and driven by their convictions.

So, here’s the skinny: if you like things even vaguely doom flavored, this is for you. If, on the other hand, you prefer your metal uncategorizable (a real word?), then this is for you. But, really, if you’d prefer that your metal is true to the roots of the doom genre, then so much of this is for you.

No matter how you slice it, this is for you. It’s one of the best, most musical metal albums I’ve ever heard—period, no genre crap bogging down that judgment.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Donald Kyle
June 11th, 2010


  1. Commented by: Shawn Pelata

    I love this album!!! Probably my favorite album from Cathedral now…they’ve really shown what they’re capable of here.

  2. Commented by: gordeth

    This is the first positive opinion I’ve seen of this album. I’m still apprehensive about listening to it. I’m all for progress but I was really looking forward to more heavy, grooving, Celtic Frost-tinged doom because, let’s face it, there really can’t be enough of that in the world.

  3. Commented by: SludgeHammer

    Even if I’d had little experience with Cathedral and heard this with fresh ears I’d still call it a massive shower of shit. In light of their previous recordings it sounds like less of a shower than torrential downpour. Also, a review this short would struggle to do justice to an EP, let alone a double CD.

  4. Commented by: Apollyon

    Generally speaking, I don’t think the amount of minutes featured on the album should, necessarily, translate directly to the amount of words in the review. Double CD or not. Then again, this comes from a guy who tends to add too many words into his own reviews…

    In this particular case, however, I can’t comment as I haven’t heard the actual release to know whether or not something truly crucial was missing from the review. Perhaps some tracks could have been named and perhaps the music could have been opened a bit more — or perhaps not. But please take comfort in the fact that we, here at TotD, listen to the feedback that we get.

  5. Commented by: Joe

    been a big fan of cathedral for many years and this one had me scratching my head. it’s musically ambitious sure, but it’s just….i dunno. i’ll have to give it another closer listen i guess and give up hope for another Endtyme.

  6. Commented by: SludgeHammer

    @ Apollyon, I agree that word count and play time don’t always need to correspond when it comes to reviews. However, four paragraphs and a summary saying nothing more than ‘This Is Great’ doesn’t do justice to a double album by a band as established and revered as Cathedral, whether it be good or bad.

    Personally I’d hold a thorough, more wordy review of a mediocre album head and shoulders above a glancing skim over a great (or terrible, as the subject matter dictates) album any day.

  7. Commented by: Shawn Pelata

    Well, I still think it’s amazing. I can’t understand what Cathedral fans are so up in arms about. Cathedral has always shifted here and there between records, they just took a big-ass left turn with this one…and to fantastic results, IMO.

    A band with as many albums as Cathedral, it would be kinda boring if they had too many that sounded the same…

  8. Commented by: Cynicgods

    Sludgy: Give the guy some credit. At least he had the balls to mention XTC and The Stranglers in a metal review. :P

  9. Commented by: Cynicgods

    Oh and regarding the album, I’m just like Gor. I can’t bring myself to listen to it. I’ve getting tired of getting disappointed by bands I used to love (Dark Tranquillity and Nevermore, I’m looking at you).

  10. Commented by: Cynicgods

    EDIT: *I’m*

  11. Commented by: Cynicgods

    EDIT AGAIN GODDAMMIT: I’m getting tired of being disappointed…

    What is wrong with me today? :D

  12. Commented by: DK777

    Hi, folks… writer of the questionable review here. I am so happy that there’s a discussion in the wake of my attempt—and really, that’s what any review is: an attempt to convey subjective impressions of sound through a non-sound medium—at capturing this Cathedral album. And if some of you want to crap on my reaction to The Guessing Game, great! That only affirms the greatness of music as a truly personal experience. How truly, truly amazing that is… in all sincerity.

    I’d hoped that my review would say that the album has appeal for all kinds of music fans… not just those who hear the name “Cathedral” and immediately have a (sound) vision of what the album is or should be. I also hoped, as mentioned, that some folks would listen to the album without preconceived notions. I hang onto that hope.

    As to the “he didn’t even name songs or get specific,” you’re absolutely right–but I didn’t name specific tracks in part because this is one of those listens that exists as a whole, not as iTunes single-track downloads, if you ask me. Take ANY album (ahh, that word… so much in danger of extinction these days), and you get a snapshot of a band in a moment. And to me, The Guessing Game AS A WHOLE is Cathedral right now.

    Let me echo Apollyon’s comment: we appreciate feedback, and we listen to/read it. As a music fan I will read every comment folks offer in response to my reviews and will, in all likelihood, go back and relisten through the lens of those comments. I can only hope some of you who read reviews here and disagree with them will consider doing the same.


  13. Commented by: noe,lvis txdm

    fkn a, this is album is exactly where i want to be in my life, musically… and as far as my personal tastes i wouldnt have heard this record if it wasnt for this review. the first time i heard cathedral was when i was at the young point in my ‘metal’life ((when i only wanted to listen to DISGORGE-mex- and devoourment, if it wasnt that it sucked, very narrowminded)) and at that time i only heard a part of cathedral & didnt like it… at all. now 9 years later and all my tastebuds have bloomed, especially in part to great reviews such as this one.

    i still like the old devourment of course

  14. Commented by: Myceliom

    Musically this album is on it. Its adventurous, groovy and heavy. The only qualm I have is (and this includes their past releases) Cathedral’s lyrics always make me cringe a little.
    Still, a great release. Cant work out why so many people do not like it. Guess a lot of metallers still struggle with an entity the dares to encompass other forms of music. Shame.

  15. Commented by: drowningincorn

    This is like every Cathedral album after Forest of Equilibirum. The riffs are killer, and Lee Dorian ruins it for me.

  16. Commented by: Chris 1426

    I think this is an excellent review and not short at all, believe me I’ve seen way shorter reviews that are way less well written and way less properly funded.

    I love the way it leaves a certain room, and respect for other opinions. It doesnt judge, point fingers or look down on music just because a band was “more true” in ancient/previous times.

    I wish metal fans were less narrow minded, not all are but many. I’m a major metal fan and listen to Meshuggah and Strapping and whatnot every day but can still appreciate a band moving on to different territories, such as Paradise Losts’ brilliant album Host.

    Cheers Donald!

  17. Commented by: Clauricaune

    “It’s one of the best, most musical metal albums I’ve ever heard—period, no genre crap bogging down that judgment.”

    Kinda far-fetched there. I personally like it a lot when bands go unpredictable and play around with different styles and genres, and I think it’s pretty awesome to see a “classic” band like Cathedral do it. But this album isn’t close to being class A material, IMO: it’s solid, has good moments and all, but it’s pretty self-indulgent and has a bunch of fillers. They could have easily cut 30 minutes from it and I doubt anyone would have cared.

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