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The-Cult-Hidden-City-Review-2016

THE CULT - HIDDEN CITY -Review

Cooking Vinyl | Release Date: February 5th 2016




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As a longtime fan of The Cult; who got on Board way back when they were still the Death Cult, I often get dismayed when most people’s vision of the band is solely centered on the Electric and Sonic Temple albums, the band’s two meaty Hard Rocking Zeppelin-like chuggers from the late eighties. Sure they were great albums but there was always so much more to the band especially on their first two releases – Dreamtime and Love.

 

After years of sparse releases – 6 years between 2001’s Beyond Good and Evil and 2007’s Born into this, and five between that release and 2012’s Choice of Weapon, we finally seem to be picking up some momentum with new release HIDDEN CITY here only four years later.

 

If I’m honest that later output has been patchy and with an eleventh new bassist - Chris Chaney playing on the album it’s questionable where Chris Wyse’ replacement Grant Fitzpatrick now sits with the band. The only slightly remarkable thing personnel wise is that John Tempesta has now outlasted The Cult’s other 12 drummers combined appearing on three albums and holding the stool for 10 years. All that goes to underline really that this has always been the Duffy and Astbury show, a relationship characterized through the years by its volatility.

 

HIDDEN CITY is also, according to the press, the last part of a trilogy of albums that began with 2007’s Born Into This. What this ‘Trilogy’ is, is anyone’s guess unless it’s a ‘Trilogy of Cult albums released between 2007 and 2016’ – c’mon someone enlighten us, after all Ian did say that Born Into This would likely be the last album released by the band!

 

So onto the music… There’s a certain tribal energy and dull-gold groove that kicks off the album with ‘Dark Energy’ which grooves and shimmers and soars a little drawing you in. It’s backed up ably by brooding partner ‘No Love Lost’ which bursts to life before ‘Dance the Night’ takes things down a little, it’s a little dancy, a little croony in the way Roxy Music was (maybe), but works well making this probably the best opening to an album by the band this Century.


    
‘In Blood’ that follows takes it all down, almost spoken-word against a darkly orchestrated, dimly lit backdrop it evokes a certain darkness inhabited by wolves and daggers and can’t help but make you ponder what the Doors might sound like in 2016.


After that probably the last thing you would expect is the almost six and a half minute ‘Birds of Paradise’ which drifts and glistens like a mellow moment from ‘Love’ that didn’t make the cut. It’s a song fans will hold close and cherish, but to a casual listener at this length it may not quite have the teeth to sustain repeated plays having no obvious hook to hang your hat on. In my opinion it’s one of the very best here.


Hitting the middle section of the album where most bands hide a little filler, ‘Hinterland’ raise a fist and wavers trance-like whilst you wonder whether it will rush through the gears or ebb and fade. Instead it shimmies down the middle, neither balls-out nor fully clothed, and leaves you wishing that muddy guitar was louder and the tempo beating faster. It’s a good song but the one song here you feel they could have done so much more with and really made explode.


That explosion comes I guess with ‘G.O.A.T.’ which is the one song here that really channels the Hard Rocking excess of ‘Electric’. It’s a nice juxtaposition to the initially stripped back, cinematic and mournful ‘Deeply Ordered Chaos’ which draws on the attack on France’s Charlie Hebdo magazine and the situation in Syria as lyrical fuel. It’s a song that musically seems to take on all the band has learned since ‘Love’ but strangely feels spiritually akin to that record.


‘Avalanche of Light’ has an almost post-punk proto Goth simplicity and flavor – it’s a great look back to simpler times but feels awkward sat here in the tracklisting. It’s neighbor ‘Lilies’ has a very different flavor and is a great song, reflective, subdued and brooding, almost like Bowie or Peter Murphy but less obtuse. It’s the sort of song you’d love to see as a jumping off point for a next release, should there be one. It and the touching closer ‘Sound and Fury’ which sees Astbury channel both men again to take the album out on an unexpected and subdued high.


Oddly those two peaks are separated rather unnecessarily by another proto-rocker ‘Heathens’ which again makes you wonder about the flow but nothing else. It’s a decent rocker but seems to be placed where it sits merely for stark contrast.


This is my favourite album by The Cult in years, and it feels like a step forward in that it finally seems to have that variety and depth channeled in the right direction. With a few tweaks in the tracklisting it sounds even better.

 

 

by Mark Rockpit

 

 


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