Cathedral: The Guessing Game

Cathedral's first double album splits the extremes of their sound onto each disc. The contrast shows listeners exactly what makes the band so unique.


The Guessing Game

Label: Nuclear Blast
US Release Date: 2010-04-20
UK Release Date: 2010-03-29
Label website
Artist website

Cathedral is an excellent example of how to properly combine stoner rock and doom metal to create one intense musical experience. These English veterans have a much wider range of influences than just these two genres, though. Bringing together elements of Corrosion of Conformity, the Beatles, Primus, Soundgarden, and Type O Negative, Cathedral has an inimitable sound that is exclusively theirs. With eight classic albums under their belt and the support of Nuclear Blast Records behind them, Cathedral has become more and more ambitious in recent years. Their latest effort, The Guessing Game, is the pinnacle of this experimentation. This 13-song double album is where Cathedral shows their fans exactly what goes into their sound and how they achieve their uniqueness.

The first disc of The Guessing Game is oriented towards the rock elements of Cathedral's sound. With this half of the album, Cathedral appears to be paying homage to the important bands that started the UK rock and metal scenes in the '60s and '70s. Listeners will detect the soft ambiance of the Moody Blues, the progressive genius of Pink Floyd, and the straightforward intensity of Judas Priest. The songs branch out and change tone seamlessly, mostly alternating between progressive, grunge-infused sections and Southern-influenced hard rock. There's also plenty of influence from the psychedelic rock of the '70s, with long guitar parts and prominent keyboard sections. Most of the songs are slow, with only "Cats, Incense, Candles & Wine" maintaining an upbeat tone for most of the song. The two instrumental songs, "Immaculate Misconception" and "The Guessing Game", accentuate the tracks surrounding them.

The second disc concentrates more on the metal influences within the band's sound, providing a nice contrast to the first disc's lighter approach. Instrumental opener "One Dimensional People" sets the tone immediately, with down-tuned guitars and greater emphasis on the bass. Lee Dorrian's vocal delivery is intensified and adjusted for the heavier feel of these songs, reminiscent of the sound and distortion used by High on Fire and Paradise Lost. Unlike traditional doom metal, though, Cathedral opts to maintain a faster tempo on most of these songs, relying on the guitar and vocal distortions to convey the appropriate atmosphere. That approach is what has set them apart from other doom metal bands for many years now, and it works for the band. Songs that follow this model, like "The Casket Chasers" and "La Noche del Buque Maldito", are some of the most memorable on the album, due to that divergence from the classic doom metal style.

In its implementation, The Guessing Game comes off as Cathedral's attempt to do what Opeth did on the Deliverance and Damnation albums: show the extremes of their sound and what they sound like when either extreme takes prominence. Because it is done on one album, though, Cathedral is more successful in achieving the desired contrast. Not only does The Guessing Game give excellent insight into Cathedral's influences, it gives listeners greater appreciation for the band's older material. Being able to stand out from their peers is what gives this band an edge, and The Guessing Game widens the gap for Cathedral considerably.


From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.

60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

Keep reading... Show less

The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

Keep reading... Show less

Net Neutrality and the Music Ecosystem: Defending the Last Mile

Still from Whiplash (2014) (Photo by Daniel McFadden - © Courtesy of Sundance Institute) (IMDB)

"...when the history books get written about this era, they'll show that the music community recognized the potential impacts and were strong leaders." An interview with Kevin Erickson of Future of Music Coalition.

Last week, the musician Phil Elverum, a.k.a. Mount Eerie, celebrated the fact that his album A Crow Looked at Me had been ranked #3 on the New York Times' Best of 2017 list. You might expect that high praise from the prestigious newspaper would result in a significant spike in album sales. In a tweet, Elverum divulged that since making the list, he'd sold…six. Six copies.

Keep reading... Show less

Under the lens of cultural and historical context, as well as understanding the reflective nature of popular culture, it's hard not to read this film as a cautionary tale about the limitations of isolationism.

I recently spoke to a class full of students about Plato's "Allegory of the Cave". Actually, I mentioned Plato's "Allegory of the Cave" by prefacing that I understood the likelihood that no one had read it. Fortunately, two students had, which brought mild temporary relief. In an effort to close the gap of understanding (perhaps more a canyon or uncanny valley) I made the popular quick comparison between Plato's often cited work and the Wachowski siblings' cinema spectacle, The Matrix. What I didn't anticipate in that moment was complete and utter dissociation observable in collective wide-eyed stares. Example by comparison lost. Not a single student in a class of undergraduates had partaken of The Matrix in all its Dystopic future shock and CGI kung fu technobabble philosophy. My muted response in that moment: Whoa!

Keep reading... Show less

'The Art of Confession' Ties Together Threads of Performance

Allen Ginsberg and Robert Lowell at St. Mark's Church in New York City, 23 February 1977

Scholar Christopher Grobe crafts a series of individually satisfying case studies, then shows the strong threads between confessional poetry, performance art, and reality television, with stops along the way.

Tracing a thread from Robert Lowell to reality TV seems like an ominous task, and it is one that Christopher Grobe tackles by laying out several intertwining threads. The history of an idea, like confession, is only linear when we want to create a sensible structure, the "one damn thing after the next" that is the standing critique of creating historical accounts. The organization Grobe employs helps sensemaking.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.