THE ONLY PLEASURE IS PAIN
The record which stands in front of your eyes is situated somewhere in time where it puts a border between heavy music from the old days and heavy music from recent times, so to say. “Forest of Equilibrium” is colossal. In the hall of my favourite doom records, somewhere in the Garden of Unearthy doom, it sits on its own throne of triumph and monumental epicness. It is the best thing Cathedral ever put out. There are so many great albums from the masters of the genre, which have to be explored and cherished, but after all only “one will rule them all”.
Just to start with, no one sounded as heavy as Cathedral back in the day. I still haven’t found a band before ’91 to encompass the deep pain exposed in “Forest of Equilibrium” and the lead heavy guitar sound. Now when I think about it several Swedish death metal demos pop up into my head, but they are neither so accomplished, neither equal in musical completeness and perfection, so off the list for now. Even now in 2013, so many years after its release, personally I don’t think that Cathedral’s debut is matched. While in the 80s it was more about who would have more extremely fast guitar solos, bands like Cathedral helped switch positions, at least for the few extremists who were interested in doing so. Sure, there are the tons of funeral doom bands and Southern sludgerers today, but the ones who opened the gate were Cathedral. There are amazing masterpieces of slowness versus doom that followed ever since – for example in the face of Thergothon’s “Stream from the Heavens” or Disembowelment’s “ Transcendence into the Peripheral”, but Lee Dorrian and company were the first ones to step into the unknown.
In the bands’ own words, it all started like the project of a few enthusiasts into Saint Vitus/Pentagram/Black Sabbath who were not even from the same town. I can imagine how unpopular doom must have been back then, it was probably a miracle to meet someone with your tastes. As Lee didn’t see himself continuing his career in Napalm Death, it seems quite logical to try to create something of your own that would also suit your musical preferences better if you have the chance to. With the help of young Gary Jennings and Adam Lehan, previously from UK thrashers Acid Reign, Mark Griffiths and Mike Smail (later in Penance) “Forest of Equilibrium” happens to be a one time masterpiece of unearthy doom.
I think that what is best about this album is the atmosphere it creates. Beginning with the glorious artwork of Dave Pitchett, it encompasses a lot from the world of feelings. It's a fact that speaks well for itself that the band has used the dark part of the whole Pitchett painting to represent their music. If you pay close attention to the original whole picture you can see that it's divided in two - a good and a bad side, one where everything is serene and problems far. The dancing women are contrasted by the much darker half where the horizon is engulfed by the evil and ugly. Like always in real art, the emotions and current situation of the psyche of the creator reflects proportionally the final result so you can judge for yourself how the guys must have felt for some aspects of their life.
"Picture of beauty and innocence" is the most beautiful intro in the world. It's like the sweetest, pristine notes have joined together to form a song. Not later enough, the opener riff enters in to shadow over the comfort of the few seconds. Lee's voice comes in the likes of an ancient caveman awaken from a deep slumber. There are so many riffs and groove in "Commiserating the celebration", so many changes and moods all of which seems like an impossible mission to put into just one single song. It's easily one of my favourite tracks on this album and one of my favourites of all time. It sure as hell is not a song you play to your friends at a party. Well, not that any of the music I listen to is good for a party. You have to sit somewhere by yourself and focus on the music or otherwise it won't really catch you.
When I once argued with a friend about the length of a book we reached the conclusion that the book was not too long - it was just not for everyone since it is very slow-paced and detailed. So is our jewellery here. The best about the world of doom is contained in track two, the extraterrestrial "Ebony tears". This second song is about a love that should not be. All of the music is slow and wretched like a love story that should have come to an end. You can see on its video two people slowly touching hands and then Lee entering the scene to cut their love. So epic, I have watched this until forever. Also the rusty down-ridden guitar at around 5:10 is just the best in the world. I can't provide more detail with music, you gotta check for yourself.
Most music on here is rather slow paced, but there is one upbeat track that probably stands out in this sense, it's "Soul Sacrifice", which gets unusually fast for a Cathedral song in this album. Mark Griffiths lyrics are an absolute slayer here, it's again something like love versus misunderstanding done in the best way possible:
"I'll pour scorn from the lowest place,
Colour fades from your face,
Paradox of self existence"
No cheating here, there are no "highlight" tracks nor do I have favourite tracks on this album. Everything is complete genius. But then again there are riffs like in the beginning of "A funeral request" that make me lay on the ground and put a box on my head and repeat it over and over again in my headphones. What did you do to me impossible band, changed all my music perceptions until foreverhell? If you really fall inlove with music like this, all your perceptions change. You will kind of learn to love the dark. If you didn't already. "A funeral request" also opened the road for other doom bands to use funeral concepts - introducing beauty to the grave. Not that British weren't the best poets already, but the lyrics of the song beat most stuff I've read anyhow.
"Serpents marked with azure rings
cathedrals where rich shadows fall,
things strange curious solemn saviour.
You promised me laughter in autumn days,
now I can't awake from this lucid haze. "
The catchiest riff on "The forest.." belongs to "Equilibrium" and I was about to say "and the best solo" when I reminded myself that I am talking about THIS album and every solo is the best. Seriously, if there is ever a doom metal fan in the universe who has not listened to "Equilibrium", go go go. The flute is probably the most mesmerising instrument along with the guitar and "Reaching happiness, touching pain" proves that. Lee's voice is extraordinarily melancholic here, even for Cathedralesque standards. On overall, this opus of deepest sorrows and best music ideas put together ends just like it began, wrapped up in grey.
Maybe I should leave this with a quote from a favourite poem: "A God I did not have, so you I worshipped".