After 24 years of loyal service to the doom metal cause, UK legends Cathedral finally hung up their morbid boots after releasing 2013’s The Last Spire.
Fortunately, guitarist and chief riff-writer Gaz Jennings couldn’t just walk away from his lifelong vocation, and now he’s back with a new band and an eponymous debut album that, as fans will expect, packs a frankly obscene number of epic and heroically heavy riffs.
“Starting again was totally daunting!” Gaz admits to Metal Hammer. “Maybe I lack self-confidence! I know it sounds stupid after writing all those riffs for years and years, but when you’re in a comfort zone with people you’ve known for a long time, you can approach them with stuff and not worry too much, but starting with new people is something else. But in the end I just thought, ‘Fuck it!’ This is all I’ve ever done in my life, isn’t it?”
Named in tribute to the 1982 album by Brit doom pioneers Witchfinder General and rooted firmly in similar skull-crushing territory to his old band, Death Penalty sees Gaz teaming up with vocalist Michelle Nocon and drummer Fredrik ‘Cozy’ Cosemans of Belgian doom squad Serpentcult, with bassist Raf Meukens completing the lineup. Despite the familiarity of their sound, there is something undeniably fresh and enchanting about the band’s debut album and, according to Gaz, Michelle’s contribution is the key.
“Her voice is incredible,” says the guitarist. “I’m just lucky she was up for it! I heard her voice in Serpentcult and she was the only singer I ever considered for this. When I sent her some songs to work on I was really nervous about what she’d send back because I really wanted it to be fucking good. But she’s really talented and what she’s done on the album blows me away.”
As one door shuts, another one opens. Gaz Jennings has spent more than two decades keeping the spirit of old-school metal alive and proving that great ideas never become stale. Death Penalty may not be reinventing the wheel here, but when the riffs and the melodies are this good, nothing else really matters.
“It’s a really good metal record and that’s it,” Gaz states. “Some of it could have been on a Cathedral album. In fact, some of it nearly was! But some of it has a more straightforward vibe and my other influences are coming through, like Tank and Tygers Of Pan Tang. Obviously I really like the record, but we’ll just have to see how far we can take this thing. The days of longer tours are not appealing to me so much now, but I’m prepared to live it rough for a while!”
Death Penalty’s self-titled album is out now via Rise Above Records