The Carnival Bizarre finds Cathedral nailing down their neo-Black Sabbath sound consistently from beginning to end with no filler, setting them apart from nearly every other band in the mid-'90s heavy metal scene. The album's consistency arises most likely from the band's streamlined lineup with only vocalist/lyricist Lee Dorrian and guitarist Gaz Jennings remaining from proceeding releases. These two collaborate on each of the ten songs, perfecting their formula for gothic fairytales set to monstrous grooves of castle-sized guitar riffs. The album's title track serves as a perfect example of how Cathedral has grown and polished its unique style more easily explained by what it isn't than what it is. On this particular song, Jennings breaks off almost immediately into the song's central riff as Dorrian begins to map out his fantastic motifs: "Ride with me on a shooting star/Through galaxies of death we chase/Skeletal king of paradise." The song has a catchy chorus that has Dorrian changing the pitch of his voice from his deep, dark gravely tone to a juxtaposing high-pitched voice nearly as rough. Several tangents make this song more than just a standard rock tune in the style of "Ride" from the group's preceding album. It is at these moments that Jennings proves just how amazing of a guitar player he has become, moving through an ambient section of psychedelic-phasing guitar tones to a contemplative guitar solo with an overdubbed backing riff that takes the song on a journey to its post-eight minute conclusion. Nearly every one of the other ten songs makes small alterations on this same template, with Dorrian's mapped-out lyrics keeping the songs within the confines of traditional rock structuring and Jennings' ever-mobile guitar serving as the musical equivalent to the otherworldly lyrical topics.
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AllMusic Review by Jason Birchmeier
feat: Tony Iommi