Release DetailsLABEL Earache
RELEASED ON 8/10/2004
The Serpent's Gold
posted on 8/2004 By:
In the early-to-mid 90s, as hair metal was being replaced in the mainstream by grunge, extreme metal was making a move to take its place in the public eye. Sepultura’s Chaos A.D. was released through Epic; Morbid Angel and Biohazard signed to Warner Bros., and Earache Records entered into an unholy alliance with Columbia. Although none of these lasted a significant amount of time, the latter lasted long enough to leave indelible marks on both myself and the face of metal due to two albums: Carcass’s genre-defining Heartwork, and Cathedral’s The Ethereal Mirror. But lets stay focused on that one.
Still new to the genre of metal, Cathedral were an eye-opener: easy on the ears enough to make a fan of Black Sabbath and Alice in Chains take notice, yet heavy and evil enough to have credibility. After seeing the video for “Ride” on Headbanger’s Ball, I rushed out to buy the album, and in time, the EP releases that preceded and followed it. I was hooked, and from then on I made it a priority to pick up every Cathedral release as soon as possible following its release.
Fast forward to 2004. Now a hardened vet of the metal scene and those albums still sound as good as they did back then. Cathedral have since left the Earache label, but in the name of all that is doomy and profitable, band and label came together to release The Serpent’s Gold, a 2 CD retrospective of their years together. Disc one is a “greatest hits” type with all tracks remastered, while disc two contains demos, live tracks, and other rarities guaranteed to give the die hards a stiffy (Note: industry pet peeve #6: record labels sending single disc promos of double disc sets. More on that later.)
Disc one, a.k.a. The Serpent’s Treasure, starts out with a bang and the aforementioned “Ride”, a song that pretty much sums up the band’s ability to combine the dreariness of doom with rock-n-roll bombast. Guitarist Gaz Jennings delivers a solo here that may well be the penultimate “descent into hell” soundtrack. That is followed up with their best known song, “Hopkins (Witchfinder General)”, and epic track crammed into just over 5 minutes.
Go through the other 13 tracks? I think not. Fans know them, and the rest won’t care. Actually, some fans may be disappointed that the band’s Forest of Equilibrium debut (still considered a highlight in the doom genre) is only represented twice, with the tracks “Ebony Tears” and “Equilibrium”, while The Ethereal Mirror gets four and even the Soul Sacrifice EP gets two. That's my main complaint I guess; the uneven selection, but hey, the band picked the tracks themselves, and we lost “Suicide Asteroid” in favor of “Voodoo Fire”, I’m okay with that. Thankfully, we still get “Utopian Blaster” from The Carnival Bizarre, a strong track in its own right, but made even more significant by the presence of Tony Iommi.
Well, we can at least take a look at the tracklisting of disc two, aptly dubbed The Serpent’s Chest. I see unreleased tracks, demo versions of Forest tracks (there you go, fans!), and a couple of live tracks. Sounds good to me.
As for the remastering, I can’t say I really notice, but did find it odd that the worst sounding track here was Endtyme’s “Melancholy Emperor”. Even the early stuff sounds better produced. Maybe they let a demo version slip in? I don’t know. Or maybe it sounded like that to begin with and I just forgot among the other 4,000,936,271 songs bouncing around my head.
I don’t know if you could put together a better snapshot of Cathedral than is on disc one, a damn fine collection showing the band at their doom/rock best. Disc two will have to await a final verdict, but you all know how much we metalheads love demos and rarities. With a new album on the way and hopefully a less than seven-year wait for another North American tour, there is no better way for the younger crowd to discover the glory that is Cathedral, and for us old folk to celebrate their legacy. Hail doom!
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