Emerging from the shadows after more than 25 years in the sonic wilderness, former Cathedral members Adam Lehan and Mark Wharton have returned as Workshed. This is the sound of doom metal legends, reborn in fire and fury.
Formed in 2014, this renewed musical collaboration has already grown into something monstrous. Workshed’s self-titled debut album is simply the most ferociously pissed off metal record of the year: a relentless onslaught of scything riffs, verbal vitriol and oppressive aggression that proves beyond doubt that guitarist/vocalist Lehan and drummer Wharton have lost none of their creative bite or mutual chemistry. In reality, however, Workshed’s beginnings were as unassuming as they come.
“I just had a few riffs that I’d never done anything with, and I’d gotten back in touch with Mark and we just thought it would be fun to start playing again, to see if we could still do it!” Adam laughs. “There were no ambitions or anything more than having a blast. That was about five years ago and here we are. Bloody hell!”
Recorded at Orgone Studios in Bedfordshire with esteemed producer Jaime ‘Gomez’ Arellano, Workshed may be the result of two friends making a racket together for the sheer hell of it, but there is nothing half-hearted about these monolithic slabs of virulent hate-doom. Both redolent of all the great doom and sludge heroes of the past and thrillingly fresh and inventive, songs like rampaging opener ‘The Windowpanes At The Lexington’ and the pulverising ‘Nowhere To Go’ sound very much like the finished, riff-worshipping article.
“Up to a certain point Workshed has been a project rather than a full band, although now that the album’s done it does feel like a band,” says Adam. “It’s just so easy for us to come up with stuff this way. I’ll write a song and send it to Mark over Facebook. We rehearse it a couple of times and then it’s pretty much done and we have a beer! We’ve always had a kind of shorthand or a connection between us. We know each other’s playing styles pretty much inside out.”
As far as Workshed’s signature sound is concerned, Adam insists that spontaneity has been at the heart of everything. Both mindful of their status as key figures in the Cathedral story and their shared desire to make music without restrictions, Workshed are destined to win over anyone and everyone that lives for the power and glory of the riff.
“There’s certainly doom in there, although it honestly wasn’t planned that way,” says Adam. “We just went with whatever came out. The general rule has been that this can be anything, but there must be an energy, a pissed off vibe, even in the really slow parts. If this is doom, it’s doom that has had the shit kicked out of it and woken up with a hangover!”
In keeping with the grim and vicious sound of Workshed’s riffs, Adam’s lyrics are rooted firmly in the guitarist’s own battles with anxiety and depression. As a result, the songs on Workshed reverberate with honesty, truth and an oddly uplifting sense of punk rock defiance. The evergreen cliché that heavy music is a form of catharsis for those who make it (and those who listen, of course) has never rung more true.
“The theme that runs all the way through is related to a period in time when I was having therapy,” Adam explains. “There are songs about different subjects but it all ties in with the mind-set I have with anxiety and depression. There is a song called ‘A Spirit In Exile’ which is pretty much as far as I can go lyrically with the subject. It’s pretty grim. So this is the anxiety album.”
There is a rather pleasing symmetry to the fact that Adam and Mark are releasing their return to the doom frontline via their old Cathedral colleague Lee Dorrian’s Rise Above Records imprint. Still on excellent terms after all these years, both Workshed and their new label boss are happy to be reunited in this new endeavour.
“It’s actually one of the bigger regrets I have regarding leaving Cathedral, that I don’t get to see Lee much anymore,” Adam notes. “So when me and Mark started to think of maybe recording some stuff, we basically came up with two ideas – to see if Lee was interested, and if he wasn’t we’d just do it ourselves in a local studio somewhere, just so we could have something we can listen to. Happily, he was interested and he’s been really cool answering all my stupid questions ever since!”
A scabby-knuckled fist to the face of metal complacency, Workshed is not for the faint-hearted. Pitch-black and proudly pugilistic, this is an exuberant exorcism and a celebration of the restorative power of The Riff. Doom is forever, class is eternal: the real work has only just begun…
“We’re just looking forward to seeing how the album is received, and we’ll take it from there,” Adam concludes. “If things go well we’d love to do more. We would definitely like to start recruiting more people and we’d love to record at Orgone again. Fingers crossed!”