Cathedral

Anniversary

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By the time English doom metal institution Cathedral announced that 2011 would be their last year as a performing concert unit (with a final studio album slated for the following year), they'd already recorded their requiem -- and a big requiem it was too -- in the shape of a double-live CD named Anniversary. Captured in December 2010 at London's Islington Academy, on the occasion of Cathedral's twentieth -- you guessed it -- anniversary, the show that became the band's first official live album (if you can believe that) was clearly conceived to reward their oldest, most loyal fans. Its first set, and therefore disc one here, saw vocalist Lee Dorrian, guitarist Garry Jennings, drummer Brian Dixon, and guest bassist Scott Carlson polishing off the group's 1991 studio debut, Forest of Equilibrium, in all its cosmic majesty, abject misery, and oftentimes unwieldy torpor. Needless to say, a layer of proverbial dust two decades thick, and a desire for authentic nostalgia do nothing to facilitate easy absorption of sluggish classics such as "Commiserating the Celebration (Of Life)," "Serpent Eve," "A Funeral Request," and others, lest one absorbed them long ago in the first place; and the funereal pace maintained throughout (with rare exceptions like "Soul Sacrifice") must have proved as big an endurance test for the band to pull off in their advanced age as it was for those in attendance. Certainly, there's a feeling of accomplishment (and, no small relief) when the whole preposterously ambitious endeavor finally winds down via the quaintly flute-enhanced "Reaching Happiness, Touching Pain." Consequently, there's ironically even more reason to celebrate the second set's (and thus, disc two's) more dynamic variety of fan favorites, culled from virtually all phases of Cathedral's career, and performed by the aforementioned trio of Dorrian, Jennings, Dixon, plus longtime bassist Leo Smee. The crowd obviously reacts with greater enthusiasm as Cathedral kick into "old friends" like "Midnight Mountain," "Ride," and the double-whammy encore of "Vampire Sun" and "Hopkins (The Witchfinder General)" -- as well as more recent album highlights like "Funeral of Dreams," "Corpsecycle," plus a taster of forthcoming studio bow "The Last Spire, Pt. 1." Having said all that, although the performances are solid enough, there's no reason to replace these cuts' studio counterparts, so Anniversary definitely functions best as a celebration than a must-own release. This one's for the die-hard fans, just like the concert that spawned it.

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