Cathedral / Church Of Misery / The Gates Of Slumber
29 April 2010
ULU, London

A useful text whilst in the pub beforehand advised us that the bands had yet to turn up at the ULU so there was ample time for another pint. However, with a few gulps left, word spread round the pub that an amazingly quick set up had occurred and The Gates Of Slumber were going on.

Dashing into the venue the lumbering Beneath The Eyes Of Mars greeted us. Resolutely old school, The Gates Of Slumber take us on a trip to a past era of metal and indeed Karl Simon’s receding hairline looks like he’s lived through it. Simon introduces Blood & Thunder as the band’s last song and we later find we’d only missed the opener of a brief three song set. Simon stoically churned out the riffs rooted to his position at his microphone whilst in contrast bassist Jason McCash was a mass of flailing hair, headbanging along. To be fair this blink of an eye sighting of The Gates Of Slumber was too short to get any real flavour of the band, nor long enough for them to get going.

The Gates Of Slumber set list:
? / Beneath The Eyes Of Mars / Blood & Thunder

Having seen Cathedral on seven previous occasions it was actually Church Of Misery I was most intrigued to see tonight and they did not disappoint. The rumbling opening of El Padrino signified the Church’s sermon was about to begin and was greeted by a sea of devil horns. As the feedback gave way to a humungous Sabbath like riff the four piece from Tokyo came to life in a blur of hair and movement.

A bass strap malfunction briefly caused a halt in what was otherwise a seamless performance with one song melting in to the next. Turning up the pace, Shotgun Boogie had frontman Yoshiaki Negishi playing call and response with the band whilst careering barefoot around the stage. Negishi is the type of frontman it’s difficult to take your eyes off, though that was not an option for those at the front with the singer often leaning out into the crowd or waving his microphone stand into them.

The mastermind behind the band is bassist Tatsu Mikami. Mikami is the principal song writer and a seriously talented bassist. Practically dragging his Rickenbacker around the stage, the diminutive bassist strums his instrument halfway up the neck whilst his left hand dances across the fretboard. His solo as a prelude to Killfornia impresses, but on many occasions as guitarist Tom Sutton solos, Mikami doesn’t just hold down the song but solos himself.

I, Motherf**ker brings the set to a close with guitarist Tom Sutton churning out riffs for fun. The Australian guitarist recently announced his intention to move away from Japan, most likely to Europe and this tour is set to be his last. It will be a difficult job for Church Of Misery to replace Sutton and with the band gathering momentum it is to be hoped they can fill the position swiftly.

Church Of Misery set list:
El Padrino / Shotgun Boogie / Killfornia / I, Motherf**ker

Having notched up 20 years,Cathedral apparently shelved their first attempt at their ninth studio album feeling that it was too unchallenging. In response the band delved into the worlds of prog and psychedelia emerging with the double disc The Guessing Game. Just checking out some of the bands added to frontman Lee Dorian’s Rise Above roster confirms this move shouldn’t have been a huge surprise.

Obviously keen to promote their latest release, Cathedral pack their set with five tracks from it, with mixed results. The band’s performance was not at question but there was a distinct flatness about the crowd. It was apparent that a large portion of those here had not heard the new record and looked quizzical at the prog interjections during opener Funeral Of Dreams. With those two decades of history Cathedral have become a bit of a Great British institution. They’ve obviously tried to shake things up with the new record but winning over a crowd packed with those just waiting for the “classics” was proving tougher.

Painting In The Dark followed with a similar response, though personally I thoroughly enjoyed it and it remains one of my favourites on the new album.

Things suddenly change when Cathedral take us on a Ride, whipping up the crowd who bounce along with the main riff. North Berwick Witch Trials from previous album Garden Of Unearthly Delights continues the good vibe. With a greater use of keyboards on the latest album, Cathedral took the step to include them live, ably manned by Munch who is apparently a chef by day. He does have past form with the band having contributed keyboards on The VIIth Coming album. Munch’s presence allowed for the Carnival Bizarre to be performed as originally recorded with the sweeping keys over the middle section. Following the “bizarre” theme, the band were joined by a man wearing a gas suit who lolopped around centre stage looking like a baddie from 1970s Dr Who.

Back to the new album with Death of An Anarchist which saw the crowd in a studious mood but for next song Cats, Incense, Candles and Wine their attention was somewhat lost. I’m not sure about this one myself. Lee Dorian has never professed to be a great singer but his unique delivery works with Cathedral’s material. Here however he is exposed, though he was almost drowned out by chatter where I was stood.

Delving all the way back to their 1991 debut Forest Of Equilibrium, the doom fans are appeased with Serpent Eve. This is slow stuff and brought back memories of my first encounter with the band on the tour for that album when they opened for Morbid Angel. Funnily Cathedral felt even slower then given the other support was Sadus, providing the most opposite speeds of band I’ve experienced at one gig. The addition of keyboards to this monolith give it a majestic feel.

Wrapping up the main set, Dorian dedicates Casket Chasers to the two support bands, “For making this tour so awesome”. Of all the new material this one sits easiest with the band’s back catalogue and invokes a mosh pit. Meanwhile onstage guitarist Garry Jennings barked out the songs title and was rewarded by a slap on the top of his hairless head by Dorian!

Corpsecycle from the band’s previous album has quickly established itself as a fan favourite and the crowd wave along but this is just a prelude to the joyous response to Hopkins (The Witchfinder General).

This was a hugely enjoyable evening and whilst Cathedral’s new twists and turns proved challenging to some, tonight’s performance hopefully inspired them to pick up the latest album and be a little more prepared next time. With Cathedral freshly confirmed for the Metal Hammer Stage at the inaugural High Voltage Festival, I’m now wondering whether they’d be now better suited to the Prog Stage.

Cathedral set list:
Funeral of Dreams / Painting In The Dark / Ride / North Berwick Witch Trials / Carnival Bizarre / Death of An Anarchist / Cats, Incense, Candles and Wine / Serpent Eve / Casket Chasers / Corpsecycle / Hopkins (The Witchfinder General)

Church Of Misery
The Gates Of Slumber