It's been close to 30 years since we've last heard from Cathedral; no, not the doom metal legends Cathedral from the UK, but the American prog rock band of the same name (how they are able to continue using the name is a conversation for another time perhaps). Back in 1978, this little known band from New York release a gem of an album called Stained Glass Stories, long considered a prog classic, filled with sumptuous Mellotron, vintage keyboards, Rickenbacker Bass, Taurus Bass Pedals, sinewy guitar work, drums, and effective vocals. Images of King Crimson, Genesis, Yes, and Gentle Giant can easily be heard throughout their debut album, making it a longtime favorite among collectors of rare 70's prog. Alas, this was to be the band's one and only release, until now.
Fast forward to 2006, when 4 of the 5 original members-singer Paul Seal, bassist Fred Callan, drummer Mercury Catonia IV, and keyboard player Thomas Doncourt, along with new guitarist David Dolg, decided to raise the band from the dead and gather together on Long Island, New York to write and record a new album. The result is the fine The Bridge, a decidedly modern sounding prog album that still retains many of the characteristics that the band showed in 1978. Opening track "Monsterhead Suite: parts 1, 2, & 3" is a 13 minute epic that more than draws influence from Starless and Bible Black era King Crimson, with Paul Seal's excellent vocals sounding like a cross between John Wetton and David Bowie. Plenty of lush acoustic guitar, Mellotron, gongs, bells, booming bass, and intricate electric guitar work on this one, and the band did a great job of mixing in complex passages with moments of chilling atmosphere. "Satellite" is an uptempo, modern sounding prog rocker, with effective instrumentation, varied keyboard sounds from Doncourt, and Seal's Peter Gabriel-ish vocal delivery. The moody and pastoral "Hollins" is a gorgeous piece, littered with haunting Mellotron and rippling bass lines, with Seal giving a truly passionate performance. Check out the emotional guitar solo from Dolg here, as he evokes images of Rothery, Holmes, Hackett, Fripp, and Howe. The guitarist shows off his acoustic prowess on the elegant instrumental "Kithara Interludium", and the spooky "Angular World" is a great vehicle for Callan's booming lead bass lines, as he snakes his notes around weaving guitar riffs & solos from Dolg and Doncourt's waves of Mellotron. The mysterious "The Lake" has an almost modern Marillion feel to it, with Seal sounding more than a little like Steve Hogarth on this one, and the epic closer "The Secret" is another example of atmospheric & brooding 70's styled prog. Layered with Mellotron, acoustic & electric guitar, sax, and those ever present muscular bass lines, the band lets the listener know that they are not afraid or unwilling to recreate the style that they forged back in 1978 on Stained Glass Stories.
In a time when so many loyal prog fans hope and pray that their reunited 70's heroes can create music that more than compares to their classic output, it's nice to see a band that delivers the goods when in reality so many just can't seem to get it right. I'll admit it took me a good half dozen listens to really uncover all the magic that is contained on this CD, but it was worth every second in the long run. This is a truly enjoyable CD that has a lot to offer, and should be of great interest to every lover of classic 70's prog. Let's hope the wait for a follow up isn't so long this time. Welcome back guys!
1 Monsterhead Suite: parts 1, 2, & 3
4 Kithara Interludium
5 Angular World
6 The Lake
7 The Secret