Typically, regardless of the review itself (Be it positive or not so much) any band in question tends to say their thankyou’s for listening, for taking my time to write about their record etc, there will be the social media sharing, and that’s that...we move on... not Cathedral In Flames. I have to give them the utmost credit here as, for my time and kind words, they not only shipped me a vinyl copy of the EP, but the collectors coffin case with USB edition EP and commemorative lighter. The lighter even came with a mini cardboard Cathedral to set fire to! (The Cathedral is still in-tact by the way). This was one of the sweetest things they could have done...and I hate it.
Alright so I don’t hate it, I was genuinely grateful, but now it puts me under a spot of pressure, as we catch up with them having released their debut album; “Hang Me High & Bury Me Deep”. Do I find any excuse under the desert Sun to panegyrize their latest release out of a sense of duty, or even guilt...or do I stay true to myself and take it on the face value like Little Caprice? I can’t believe I just googled “Top Czech Republic Porn Actresses” for the sake of an analogy. Anyway...let’s check it out and hopefully there will be no burying required.
We open up with “Twilight Of The Goths” which looks to be a little take on Richard Wagner’s “Götterdämmerung”, or, “Twilight Of The Gods”; an Opera from the late 1800’s. The Opera itself was a German translation of the old Norse tale of Ragnarok, and the wars which ended in the cataclysmic destruction of the world. Will the track replicate such fantastical drama? Well it’s dramatic I’ll give you that much...the percussion and guitars here carry ample dark tones, with subtle synths, and the instrumentation takes more of a back seat for the dual vocals on display. Phil Lee Fall still has his well-gravelled tone that channels the likes of Nephilim, but while accompanied by the cleaner, clearer notes of Ambra Von Bernstein, gives this a more, SISTERS OF MERCY inspired flavour. Love us or hate us, we are the Goths, we don’t care. It’s a mission statement and a decent start.
Next up we have promotional track “Black Train”...which, following on from the prior EP’s “Red Car”, makes we wonder if next time we’ll get a cover of “Yellow Submarine”? I digress. The track is more of the same, gritty, deep rumbling post-punk, utilizing all of the classic tropes of the genre, acting like a bit of a time capsule essentially. The chorus here has a simple yet effective hook, and overall it’s another fine track. Speaking of transportation, we also have “Drinking In The Car” which, listen folks, isn’t specifically drink driving, so I’ll allow it. It’s got a distinctly more, country-inspired, bluesy guitar twang to it, with the backing vocal harmonies creating an incredibly Western vibe. Is the car a saloon? Cars weren’t invented yet my friend...you may have been drinking on your horse.
“Blame It To The Pain” then harbours a similar vibe to “Black Train” in it’s nostalgic approach and gentle chorus hooks for another album highlight, before we get into the rest of the album. Aside from a further stab at the previous EP’s title track, we get “Dia De Los Muertos” which is, of course, “Day Of The Dead” and put primary focus here on Ambra’s soft vocals for an audible departure in style. There’s more of an elegance to this track and while unexpected here, could be very well capitalized on for future releases. The title track, aka “Desperado” again blends together those early Gothic rock tendencies with semi-Western aesthetics to really hammer home the character of this bands style and sound, but at over 8-minutes long takes longer than a stare-down at high noon...which brings us to “1989”.
Not only the year I was born, but the year the film, “High Noon” was put into the first US batch of historically protected movies with cultural relevance...and the name of the worst song on this album. Don’t get me wrong, every Gothic album deserves some sort of piano ballad...on the assumption that, that album has Ville Valo on vocals. Phill here, has such a depressed , sometimes warbled baritone, it invokes near legit sadness in the listener. This is like when JOHNNY CASH performed “Hurt”...or, like, the final moments of IAN CURTIS. Even the most effrontery of emo’s will hold their emaciated limbs up to that and be like “Dude, cheer up”.
While Cathedral In Flames have maintained their core sound and overall style, continuing to pay homage to the grandfathers of Goth as we know it, they’ve not been afraid to dabble a little here and there with different instrumental approaches, and it’s hasn’t fired on all cylinders for them on this occasion. I know I’m mentioning “1989” again, but that should have been given to Ambra. The Goth rock is fine where it’s been presented, but the other bits need some refining. This is really neither hung high or buried deep...more, stuck in the stocks being hit with the occasional gammy cabbage waiting for another chance.