I’ve always found doom to be a particularly beguiling style of heavy metal. I’m not sure any other subgenre is able to evoke such a broad range of emotions, from sheer suicidal despair to fist-pumping, booty shaking euphoria. Or perhaps I have a pathologically shaky booty (though if you don’t at least feel a twitch in your hips when listening to Sleep’s Holy Mountain then I don’t trust you as a human being). Cardinals Folly‘s debut album Such Power Is Dangerous! leant more towards the latter style, but also contained occasional nods to their more depressive colleagues sprinkled throughout its lengthy tracks. I can’t claim that I was particularly looking forward to their second album, but the press release titillated me. The album cover, straight from a mushroom-addled D&D fan’s art collection, suggested a move further towards classic trad-metal territory ripe for head banging and fist pumping. But the promotional text told a different story, suggesting I might be in for a more depressing ordeal with its references to Warning and 40 Watt Sun. Which was it to be?
There are certainly many moments that invite you to damage your neck over the course of the album’s eight songs. “The Black Baroness” begins with a cracking heavy doom riff, which sadly never reappears. “Our Cult Continues!” sounds rather like Reverend Bizarre during their more interesting moments. “The Lovers Crypt” (the development of the apostrophe has apparently eluded the Cardinals) is perhaps the most traditional doom metal track, while also being the album’s weakest.
This record is a more interesting prospect than yet another old-school doom release, though. Of course old-school doom is what lies at its core. It is slow. It is heavy. Church bells make an appearance. But there are long sections of music on here that are really quite black metal. Listen to the opening of second track “Morbid Glory” and tell me that doesn’t sound like something left off of Burzum’s Belus. “Sighisoaran” has a serious Primordial influence running through it – though with more of a resigned melancholy than Primordial’s wounded, savage despair – while parts of “Walvater Unveiled” remind me of a less grandiose, more primal Summoning.
So, what of the Warning references? Final track “Fallout Ritualist” is the first time I found their influence obvious, starting with a riff that would be right at home on Watching From A Distance. The record’s production has also got that Warning / 40 Watt Sun guitar tone – saturated, thick and heavily overdriven. It sounds excellent, and it’s just as well given the guitar’s slight over-prominence in the mix. Such a constantly thick wall of sound leads to some listening fatigue; more variety in the arrangements would have helped ease the aural burden.
The band has apparently realized that the vocals – a stylized performance from a chap who can’t really sing – are the weakest aspect of the music so turned them right down. While bassist/vocalist M. Karnstien’s efforts aren’t terrible, the vocal lines often seem to be an afterthought, frequently following the riffs rather than adding to the music. My only other complaint is the album length. Doom is hardly known for its brevity, and at 58 minutes Our Cult Continues! is hardly the worst offender in the genre, but several tracks would have benefitted from some cutting and rearrangement to increase their impact, while “The Lovers Crypt” could have been left off entirely.
This is a great improvement over the debut, which, while containing promising moments, ultimately lacked enough unique aspects to distinguish it from the doom masses. Our Cult Continues! melds hammering doom riffs with melancholic black metal influences, resulting in one of the more varied traditional doom releases to have tickled my eardrums recently. Certainly worth an hour of your time if you’re a doom monger, or if you want to know what Cathedral would have sounded like if they’d developed a Burzum fetish.