It wasn’t so long ago that The Cult were dismissed as dead in the water. Created in Britain in 1983 on the heels of the post-punk movement, the band had split up in 1995, bailing out of a South American tour and citing unspecified reasons for the breakup (read: alcohol abuse and hateful riffs between members). After reforming in 1999, in 2002 they announced themselves again “on ice” indefinitely and by 2008 the band was an unsigned outfit. It seemed The Cult were destined for a minor entry in a hard rock bands of the ’90s Google search.
So it is a bit of a surprise that their new and ninth album, Choice of Weapon is a class act brimming with confident musicianship, luscious but never too rough metal, and crisp “She Sells Sanctuary”-ish guitar riffs. Original members, front man Ian Astbury, whose distinctive wailing voice has settled pleasantly into a rich deeper register, and guitarist Billy Duffy, an ace at memorable guitar passages, have created an album rich in Metallica atmosphere that boasts a topical integrity that addresses the current state of our information overloaded society by confronting political oppression.
In the Gothic draped, David Bowie-sounding “Life > Death”, and indeed throughout the album, the defensive choice of weapon used to ward against the godzillas of the corporate world—all money threatens rock and roll don’t you know?—is a personal belief system that can alter the political landscape. In lyricist Astbury’s view, that belief system is a devoted fascination with indigenous culture and animal mysticism, as seen on the cover of the CD which pictures an ancient shaman masked as a Middle Eastern rebel. Astbury sings to the powers that be as if wailing vengeful sentiment to the wind: “You can’t destroy them/The beauty and the youth/You’ll never beat them/You’ll never hide the truth”.
In “For The Animals”, global economic conquest threatens to quell any movement that rises against the system, as a flash of brilliant guitar plays rebel to Astbury’s devil’s advocate: “Dark cities you crawling in/Dark prisons you’re living in/You losing millions of cells/Spit your mantra go to hell”.
“Lucifer” is a powerful hard rocker that is perfectly ripe for modern rock radio, and “Wilderness Now” is dreamy and poignant with a touch of “Dream On” Aerosmith velvety smoothness. It boasts a memorable lyric (“Death walks right beside me/The light shines bright behind me”) that files itself permanently into your memory under “lingering refrain”.
Given the politically heady themes so pertinent to the current “take-over” movement, the album refuses to abandon its hard rock likability for the sake of indulgence. It crawls with idealistic philosophy on the verge of intolerance, yet foremost it remains an engaging listen with a driving beat and blistering guitar work.
The four CD bonus tracks are songs from previous Cult projects and are a fitting bookend to this collection of music. The CD packaging is impressive, if not environmentally sound, with a glossy book-like hard cover bounding a 24-page booklet of lyrics, artwork, and credits.
Choice of Weapon is scheduled for release on May 22.