It seems like only yesterday I was writing clichés sitting on a balcony overlooking the idyllic Okinawan sea, sweat streaming down my balls, and Cardinals Folly’s second album blaring from my headphones as I tackled my first Angry Metal Guy review. But of course it wasn’t yesterday, it was nearly two years ago, and since then much has changed. We live in a post-Kim Kardashian’s Exposed Buttocks Breaking the Internet world, where PewDiePie is a millionaire, a dress is some colours (but we don’t know which ones), and we do things like Netflix and fuck. Sorry, chill. Meanwhile, I switched jobs, moved back to Blighty, and have actually met AMG in the fleisch (he is real; El Cuervo and webmaster Sentynel however are not). Such is the maelstrom of modern life, it’s no wonder so many throwback acts are so popular as a confused public reaches for the comforting sounds of its youth.
Cardinals Folly are one such act, though their last record Our Cult Continues! was a little out of the ordinary thanks to a potent black metal influence to the riffs – a sort of Burzum meets Reverend Bizarre mashup that I rather enjoyed. Unfortunately, the stresses of the past couple of years have taken their toll on the Cardinals, and new album Holocaust of Ecstasy and Freedom is far more traditional in its approach, dropping the black metal influence almost entirely. The result is a less distinctive sound focused on the traditional doom staples of big, slow riffs and headbanging grooves.
Though the aforementioned Reverend Bizarre, along with Cathedral and St Vitus, are clearly their biggest influences, the Cardinals do mix things up a little with tragic elements borrowed from My Dying Bride (“Goats on the Left” and “Her Twins of Evil” in particular). Though these add diversity and provide some of the strongest moments on the record, they don’t always sit well alongside the more upbeat riffing, which itself is quite varied in quality. With a three man line-up the Cardinals’ approach has always been quite minimalist, and when the riffs are good it works well, but it’s glaringly obvious when the quality drops as there is absolutely nothing else going on to distract the listener.
Mikko Kääriäinen’s vocals are again a weak point – enjoyably deranged and weird, but adding very little to the music as he constantly follows the guitar lines. I’d love to hear the Cardinals with a dedicated singer who could write strong vocal melodies, as the riffs alone aren’t enough to hold my attention for 44 minutes. The performances otherwise are good: just loose enough to provide that old-school roughness without sounding sloppy. The guitar sound is less about bite and more about fuzz than on Our Cult Continues!, which suits the stylistic change, but sadly the DR score has dropped a couple of dB, which does not.
Overall this is a slightly disappointing outing from the Cardinals. It may be that they are content to stay a scene band paying tribute to the doom masters of yore, but they have shown they can be something more interesting than that and it’s a shame they haven’t pushed on with this record. Holocaust of Ecstasy and Freedom contains some fine moments and doom fans should certainly give it a go, but ultimately it doesn’t do enough to stand out in a crowded genre.
However, there are titties1 on the front cover. 4.5/5.0.