@ London HMV Forum, December 3 2011

Sometimes it’s better to go out on a high rather than clutching a zimmer frame. And the former is exactly what Cathedral have done.

For more than two decades they’ve been the UK’s standard bearers for doom metal – a genre that singer Lee Dorrian helped reignite in the late 80s with both his band and record label, Rise Above. 

And swapping the grindcore blitzkrieg of Napalm Death (Dorrian appeared on the seminal Scum album) for a style steeped in early 70s Sabbath has proved a good career move for the Coventry-born vocalist.

Cathedral, which he formed with guitarist Gaz Jennings and bassist Mark Griffiths in 1989, boast a catalogue of truly great albums, as well as a permanent place in underground metal’s hall of fame.

This farewell gig, though, is a celebration rather than a wake and Rise Above luminaries Gentlemen’s Pistols get the party started in fine style, all shaggy hair and retro riffage.

Cressida, a late replacement for an illness-struck Comus, followed the Pistols with a set of mellow prog that didn’t quite hold The Forum’s attention.

But Grand Magus, on the other hand, were greeted with a mighty roar and heads banged throughout to the Swedes’ expertly crafted classic metal. Frontman JB boasts one of the best set of pipes you’ll hear live or on record, while tunes such as When The Oar Strikes The Water bristle with riffs forged by Thor himself.

But despite a thunderous performance from the Stockholm boys this was Cathedral’s night.

And when a spooky Hammond organ intro gave way to the immense, downtuned grooves unleashed from Jennings’ SG, the massed ranks knew they were in for a treat.

Few, if any, bands do this better. The oozing melancholy of Ebony Tears, the ‘disco doom’ of Midnight Mountain, the prog-tinged Funeral of Dreams… they’re lapped up by a crowd paying homage to one of British metal’s most important acts.

Dorrian, flanked by the hulking frame of Scott Carlson on bass and long-time co-conspirator Jennings stage right, looked like he was having a ball. But this was an admittedly bittersweet occasion for Cathedral’s loyal acolytes, who arrived in their droves for one last night of worship.

Established crowd faves such as Ride were mixed with more recent material such as Corpsecycle, but there could only be one closer: Hopkins, Witchfinder General was delivered with all the passion you’d expect from a band playing it for the last time.

This show wasn’t the final word from Cathedral – an album is expected next year – but it was goodbye and a fitting way to say it too. We’ll miss you chaps.

Richard Holmes