Cathedral / Grand Magus
14 October 2005
Camden Underworld

I wasn`t aware that Burning Saviours had been added to the bill and consequently managed to miss them and in fact Grand Magus had already commenced by the time we got into the Underworld.

Grand Magus` latest album, Wolf`s Return, has turned out to be a bit of a grower, with it`s no nonsense approach worming it`s way into my brain and finding myself singing the songs in my head. In the press the band seem keen to label themselves as a metal band rather than carry the doom tag and whilst the new album carries a little more pace and the studded wrist band look screams metal, what is presented tonight is undeniably doomy. Nothing wrong with that and the renditions are played well and loyal to their recordings.

It`s difficult for a three piece to be visually entertaining and aside from bassist Fox turning into Cousin It from The Adams Family when headbanging there`s little onstage action. The crowd response seemed to be blowing hot and cold too. Kingslayer went down a storm, but when JB introduced Never Learned as the next song, he met the dead reaction with "Oh you don`t want that one, we`ll play Blood Oath instead".

This is not to say that this was a bad performance, it just seemed to be missing something. Perhaps like the album, I need to experience it a few times before becoming thoroughly absorbed.

Grand Magus set list included:
Wolf`s Return / Brotherhood Of Sleep / Ulvaskall (vagr) / Nine / Kingslayer / Blood Oath

Cathedral are a band I have experienced on a number of occasions, almost to the point of apathy about going to see them. However, The Garden Of Unearthly Delights is an absolute corker which has reignited my faith in the band. Quite frankly I wouldn`t have minded if they had played the whole disc.

The pacey Tree Of Life & Death really set the band on a roll and when Lee Dorian said he wanted to see us explode, crowd favourite Ride certainly sparked up the response. Dorian flits between hopping around the stage in a hunched position to forming a human Y shape whilst stretching out the microphone lead.

Corpsecycle is one of the catchiest tunes Cathedral have penned and is surely to become a regular fixture in the bands set list. The song which references 9-5 workers on the tube is particularly ironic tonight given the entire Northern Line is shut, meaning the packed out crowd had a little inconvenience getting here, which by now they had surely forgotten.

With so many albums there was always going to be a few favourites for some people omitted, but the band did a good job in cherry picking a fluid set. However, when Dorian announced after seven songs that there was only time for two more it was immediately apparent one of those was going to be quite long, nay, very long!

First however, Utopian Blaster got a lot of interaction with Dorian letting a crowd member sing the song`s title each time, before leading us through a chant of "hey - hey" and calling out "Huggy Bear" with the suitable "Oh yeah!" response from the audience.

Finally it was time for the first airing of the epic The Garden. Now this was a bit special. Aided by members of Circulus the following half hour whizzed by.

Gary Jennings and Leo Smee teased feedback from their amps with dramatic thuds from Brian Dixon. Then silence, followed by a folky intro, with ethereal female vocals from Lo Polidoro. This was suddenly interrupted when the band broke into a stomping doom riff, with Lo remaining on stage nodding along with her hands clasped prayer like by her large floppy hat.

Lee and Lo`s traded vocals during the following staccato section were both creepy and kooky before everything once more drew to a halt with a few unknowing members of the crowd clapping like the song had finished. Of course, in fact it had only just begun.

Once again it was back to dreamy acoustic guitar and Lo`s vocals before the sinister stomp returned and Lo departed leaving Dorian`s tortured vocal cast across Jennings` grinding riff. The eventually breakdown was wrapped with feedback as Leo Smee`s flanged bass took over. The crowd seemed hypnotised by the Doctor Who like sounds emanating from the stage. Alarm clock like tapping from Dixon on a cowbell brought us back to the land of the living and back to the doom riffing before heavy work on the ride cymbal signified the grove soaked salsa section worked its way through your body, begging you to dance.

Once again the groove was broken down to the doomiest section of the song where the band were joined by the violinist from Circulus. The interplay between electric violin and Jennings`s guitar was simply stunning and lifted the performance to a triumphant crescendo whilst taking the song full circle.

Lo returned to recite a monologue over rousing chords as the song headed towards its conclusion. The soothing finale spelled the end of the journey and looks of achievement on stage.

The response was such that there was no way we could be left without an encore and Cathedral obliged with of course Hopkins (The Witchfinder General).

The Garden was of course the pinnacle of this excellent performance and with the need for guest musicians will probably not be repeated too often. Certainly a performance I shall remember.

Cathedral set list:
Electric Grave / Tree of Life & Death / Ride / Corpsecycle / Heavy Load / Upon Azrael's Wings / Skullflower / Utopian Blaster / The Garden / Hopkins (The Witchfinder General)

Grand Magus
Burning Saviours