Cathedral's second full-length album, The Ethereal Mirror, finds the group experimenting a bit with new sounds on their path to discovering the patented sound they would polish on succeeding releases. Hints of their lumbering doom sound from Forest of Equilibrium characterize songs such as "Phantasmagoria," but for the most part Cathedral picks up the pace and instills a welcome sense of groove into their monolithic guitar riffs. Two songs from the album in particular stand out due to their up-beat tempos: the anthemic opener, "Ride," and the metal-disco of "Midnight Mountain." These two songs aren't up-tempo in the sense of death metal or grindcore, but they actually owe a lot to late '60s and early '70s hard rock anthems such as Steppenwolf's "Born to Be Wild" and Black Sabbath's "Supernaut." Singer/lyricist Lee Dorrian's background as a member of the U.K.'s grindcore movement in the late '80s and the ultra-heavy guitar tones of the group elevates songs such as "Ride" above generic proto-heavy metal recycling. Dorrian's voice sounds unlike traditional rock vocalists as he tries his best to sing despite the grave darkness remaining from his past as a growling madman in Napalm Death. Furthermore, his lyrics feature more fairytale-inspired nightmarish qualities than Ozzy Osbourne ever came close to writing. But for as important as Dorrian is to Cathedral as their undeniable leader, the epic guitar riff-laden soundscapes of Garry Jennings and Adam Lehan drive these songs and set perfectly gloomy moods for Dorrian's black magic poetry.
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AllMusic Review by Jason Birchmeier