In 2010, doom metal titans Cathedral played a concert to celebrate 20 years of laying down some of the greatest sounds the subgenre has ever known, getting the Forest of Equilibrium lineup back together to play that classic, Hall of Fame-inducted album in its entirety and then playing a second set with the current lineup. The next year, the concert was released as Anniversary, a double-CD set documenting the night.
Now, each of those two sets is being released as its own double-LP package on vocalist Lee Dorrian’s Rise Above Records. Return to the Forest documents the Forest set, while Freak Winter looks back at some of the band’s most-loved songs spanning the rest of their career.
We caught up with Dorrian and Return to the Forest guitarist Adam Lehan to talk about the records, the sets, the legacy, and the likelihood of a reunion.
Why did you decide to release these on vinyl now?
Dorrian: I guess because it’s been a bit of a quiet time in terms of new releases. We were planning to do them at some point, so it just made sense to release them now.
The set list on Freak Winter is great, and provides a good overview of Cathedral’s legacy. How do you feel listening back to it now?
Dorrian: It’s cool looking back I guess, though it doesn’t phase me or anything personally. The gig itself was a great night, it was our 20th anniversary, so it’s a bit weird now to think that this was actually a decade ago already! It doesn’t seem that long ago at all.
What about Return to the Forest, how do you feel that material holds up?
Dorrian: I think it holds up, definitely. We knew we were recording something special when we made the album (Forest of Equilibrium). We never really thought (or even cared) about how our music was going to be received, all through our “career,” though, to be honest. We just wanted to do things how we wanted at the particular time we were working on something. Of course, things didn’t always go to plan, sometimes it worked, other times not as much. But at least the intention was there, for better or worse.
I suppose with these reissues coming out, I’d be remiss to not ask you about some sort of Cathedral reunion. Do you think it could ever happen?
Dorrian: I don’t think so. We put everything into the band we possibly could while it lasted. It was always a struggle to keep it going, to be truthful, as we were always broke and always felt like the underdogs, which was fine, but after 20 years it became a bit soul-destroying. There’s only so much energy you can dedicate to something, regardless of how much it means to you. To just reform and cash in on the lucrative offers we’ve been getting ever since we broke up would feel a bit like we’re just doing it for the cash, which is never what it was about in the first place. Never say never, I guess, but it’s very doubtful. We ended it for a reason.
What else should readers be watching out for on Rise Above? Also, give us a quick update on what you’re up to musically.
Dorrian: Witchskull just released their third album (second for Rise Above) and it’s an absolute monster. Killer production, amazing vocals and excellent musicianship. I really dig what they are doing, so hopefully we will see them out on the road whenever such a thing might be a possibility again. Our latest signing is a simply amazing band from Austin called White Dog. Every once in a while (certainly not every day), a band comes along with that timeless vibe and natural chemistry. White Dog are certainly one of those bands and I’m very excited for us to get their debut album out to everybody, as it’s a total killer. I predict great things for them. As for myself, I’m in the middle of opening a shop, which has been taking up most of my time for the past year. I had to take a break from With the Dead, as the drama was getting so ridiculous it simply wasn’t fun. We do have quite a lot of new material written, though, so hopefully we will have something new out next year. As for Septic Tank, it would be great to do something again when Scott [Carlson, bassist] is free. I’ve also been working on something else which is very different to anything I’ve done before. It’s just a matter of finding the time to fit everything in, to be honest, as I hate to do things half-arsed.
Thinking back to 2010, what was it like for you playing Forest in its entirety, after being out of the band for so long at that point?
Lehan: The rehearsal process (two days, I think) was fine. I actually didn’t feel as odd as I thought I would, it was just like putting on a favorite pair of old boots or something. I’d refreshed my memory of the album by playing along to it once in my front room and everything fell into place really easily. It was great to be around everyone again; I’d bumped into them ([drummer Mike] Smail excepted) at gigs over the years but never all in the same room together. One thing that came out of it that I didn’t expect was that “Reaching Happiness” became my favorite song to play of the set… It’s such a dirge, I’d been dreading it a bit, but I loved it. I think Gaz [Gary Jennings, guitarist] felt the same way.
What goes through your mind when you listen back on these live sets today?
Lehan: The first thing is how good is sounds… I think [Jaime] Gomez [Arellano] did a great job with the mix. Secondly, I remember how nervous I was on the night—I was just terrified I was going to mess up the gig somehow, and it was kind of a big deal! [laughs] At least I got to unwind afterwards—I had a beer or two with Griff [Mark Griffiths, bassist] and [Carcass’] Jeff Walker while poor old Doz [Dorrian] and Gaz had to go back on and do another set! [laughs] Then we all went back to the hotel and ended up drinking into the early hours in the room I shared with the guitar tech! The train journey home the next day was a rough one! [laughs]
Do you think the material on Forest holds up?
Lehan: Yeah, I think it does. It’s definitely my favorite Cathedral release, and brings back a lot of great memories for me. London Road Cemetery, pot noodles, cheap lager and beanfeasts! “Serpent Eve” is also my favorite Cathedral track.
As with all Cathedral releases, the artwork here is fantastic, really going back to the mood of the art on the early albums. But it doesn’t look quite as joyful as Forest did. What do you get out of the artwork?
Lehan: It’s great, I’d rather not say what I get out of it, though; I think it’s more fun for people to have their own personal feelings on artwork, interpretations… not to be unintentionally colored by anyone else’s. Sorry [laughs], I’m a nerd.
Give us a Workshed update.
Lehan: Workshed have just had a video done for the song “Nowhere to Go,” it’s on the Rise Above Instagram page… Go have a look! Aside from that, we’re like most bands at the moment—grounded, really, until the state of the world changes! Thanks for asking me, mate, and stay safe, everybody!