Latest release: The Guessing Game (Nuclear Blast/Riot!)
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After more than two decades as one of the premier exponents of doom metal, England’s Cathedral will soon call it a day – albeit not quite in the fashion they expected. Rather than playing their farewell show in their homeland as initially planned, the quartet will play their last ever gig in a place they’ve only visited once previously – Perth – as part of the Soundwave Festival.

“We only played Perth once, in ’95 with Paradise Lost,” vocalist Lee Dorrian recalls. “It was quite a strange show. It was kind of on a beach, with hardly any people there,” he laughs. “It won’t be like that again as it’s part of the festival, but if it was, it’d be weird. But we’ve seen weirder,” he adds with another laugh.

Dorrian says it will likely be a bittersweet experience to come to Australia again and also leave the stage for the final time while here.

“Australia’s one place we’ve had such a great time the few times we’ve gone there, it’s a more laid-back atmosphere, a great place to socialise, meet people and talk about music. But it had been such a long time it seemed like it would never happen again. The London show was officially meant to be our last show. But at the 11th hour, we were offered these shows by the promoter AJ (Maddah). We were supposed to do the Soundwave (Revolution) that got cancelled and the farewell show in London a few weeks ago was supposed to be our last show. Knowing that made the London show a bit easier to bear; knowing that we had a couple more shows, it did make it a little bit easier.”

Instead, the band will return to our shores for the first time in more than a decade for Soundwave 2012. As for the Australian shows themselves (Dorrian reveals there are a few side shows in the works, but can’t confirm any details), fans can expect a little bit of everything.

“It’s hard to say as we don’t know how long we have for a set,” he says. “But I guess we’ll play a bit of everything; we have nine albums and a lot of EPs, so we have quite a lot of places to take material from. We’ll play stuff from the first album, the last album, and everything in between. I don’t like to use the term ‘greatest hits’, because it’s not like that at all, but plenty of different stuff with a few rarities as well.”

The Australian gigs aside, Cathedral’s final act will also include the release of their studio swansong, The Last Spire. Unlike its predecessor, 2010’s mammoth The Guessing Game, the band will be even more involved with the project to ensure their final musical statement leaves as sizeable an impact as possible.

“We’re planning to begin recording in April,” Dorrian explains. “We want it out next year, because as of next year the band will be no more. We’re working on material at the moment. When we get back from Australia we’ll have a good, solid month to fine-tune the songs. We’ll hopefully have it released in September/October of 2012. I’m going to see our artist Dave Patchett this weekend – he does all our album covers – and just sit with him and go through all of the concepts for the album cover.”

Where does he envision their last recording heading stylistically?

“Musically, I would say The Guessing Game was more of a summarisation of everything we had done. The Last Spire is more like our final stamp really. I think it’ll be a lot heavier and more doom-influenced than anything else we’ve done in recent years. But there will also be keyboards, and hopefully it’ll be a really progressive doom record. I don’t want to give away too much, but it’ll probably be a little heavier. We’ll be much more hands-on with the production. This is our last one, so we want to go out with a bang and pretty much do it ourselves because we can.

“The last two albums (with producer Warren Riker) turned out great. We’ve had producers in the past, (where) we would have some out there ideas, and some producers would just shrug their shoulders or laugh. Warren was great, (but) we want to make the last statement ourselves, like we did with the first album. A lot of people thought we were crazy to make an album like (1991’s) Forest of Equilibrium. People asked us what we were doing. It was going against the grain of what was going on at the time. So we’ll finish the way we started.”

In many ways, “going against the grain” largely defines the band’s illustrious and highly influential career.

“We’ve just followed our instincts all these years. We’ve always been our own thing. A lot of bands follow trends or just aim to be popular at a certain time, and we’ve never set out to do that. We haven’t made things easy for ourselves over the years; we’ve never paid consideration to what’s around us. So if that’s going against the grain, then we have.”

Post-Cathedral, Dorrian has no definite plans, but his long-running label Rise Above Records will feature prominently in the future.

“I’ve done that for more than 20 years now,” he says. “It’s a full-time job really. I will be able to dedicate a lot more time to that, which I want to do.” And while the major labels continue to bemoan the current state of the music industry, Rise Above is reaching new heights of success, of which Dorrian is understandably proud. “I think it’s the big labels suffering as it’s the big labels that created the problem. We go from strength to strength; we don’t sell millions of records, but we’re still here. It’s a testament to all the vultures and vampires in the industry that have killed it. People have been short sold I think… I think people see in Rise Above that you can discover things yourself, without just being told about it by the hype of the (mainstream) media.

“We do this out of love for the music and I think people are slowly coming around to that. We try to make our releases, things like our vinyl releases special. I’ve been collecting records since I was eight or nine and I always like to put myself on the other side of the fence. I think about how as a fan myself, how I would like it to be presented. I spend a lot of time thinking about that. If Rise Above wasn’t the label I started, I would be a fan of it myself,” he adds with a laugh.

The veteran frontman has a few more choice words for those responsible for the wider music industry’s free-fall.

“Despite all the chaos in the industry and people saying downloading is killing the industry bigger labels should have given greater thought to their audience. It’s just the way you control it really. There’s pros and cons to downloading. People who like labels like Rise Above want to have an artefact, a physical copy from the label in their hands. We have a steady audience around the world who buys our records; in the past few years, we’ve sold the most records we ever have.

“If you’re a commercial label, your audience doesn’t really care about things like production or artwork. There’s not much dedication from the label or the audience. If it’s presented in a way that’s a lot more sincere, I think people respond to it. The No.1 album in the charts that week, you can buy that in the supermarket along with your toilet roll. To buy our releases, you have to go out of your way to find out about it and find out how to buy it.”

As for any future musical endeavours, Dorrian has nothing planned – but isn’t ruling out the possibility of new ventures.

“Any new musical projects will be spontaneous,” he emphasises. “Once Cathedral is finally over, I want to sit down and spend a few months to a year, reflecting on what the band’s done. When you’re doing it, you’re always so busy; you’re always having to think about the next thing you’re doing. So it will be good to do that.”

Soundwave Festival 2012 dates-
Saturday 25 February – RNA Showground, Brisbane- SOLD OUT
Sunday 26 February – Olympic Park, Sydney- SELLING FAST
Friday 2 March – Showgrounds, Melbourne- SOLD OUT
Saturday 3 March – Bonython Park, Adelaide
Monday 5 March – Claremont Showgrounds, Perth

Cathedral will also appear at the following shows with Paradise Lost and Turisas:
Monday 27 February – Factory Theatre, Sydney
Thursdau 1 March – Esplanade Hotel, Melbourne