Cult
(Copyright © 1999-2024 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )

Southern Death Cult , 4/10
Dreamtime , 6.5/10
Love, 6.5/10
Electric, 6/10
Sonic Temple, 6/10
Ceremony , 4/10
Cult , 5/10
Holy Barbarians: Cream , 4/10
Ian Astbury: Spirit\Light\Speed , 5/10
Beyond Good And Evil , 4/10
Born Into This (2007), 4/10
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(Translated from my original Italian text by Massimo Mascia) (Clicka qua per la versione Italiana)

Aside from having been the moral leaders of the 90’s hard-rock revival before grunge, the Cult have few other musical merits.

The Southern Death Cult, born autumn 1982, were part of the gloomy dark-punk ranks, among whom they stood out due to their heavy-metal guitar riffs, tribal drumming, poetic lyrics and dreadful vocals. The single Fatman and the solemn EP Moya forced them onto an ever changing scene, but the Southern Death Cult (Beggars Banquet, 1983) album was appallingly devoid of contents. The band changed its name to Death Cult for a couple of EP’s (especially Ghost Dance).

Finally Ian Astbury (vocals) and Billy Duffy (guitar) founded the Cult from the ashes of their gothic beginnings. The band was announced by the energetic and explosive, melodic and  danceable sound of Spiritwalker. Dreamtime (Beggars Banquet, 1984) tuned up a virtually fail-safe formula: Horse Nation was built upon layers of tribal thumping, impudent guitar play  and emphatic crooning. Go West exceeded in an agitated funky cadence, Gimnick indulged in Eastern resonances. The melodic and histrionic peak of the album was perhaps the final Bad Medicine Waltz. Astbury had cunningly replaced the gothic pose of the early years with a spiritual mood inspired by the Native American Indians.

With the album Love (1985) the Cult wholly embraced hard-rock: highlighted guitar riffs, shining clean production and martial rhythm. The songs are set upon refrains and licks heard a thousand times before, and don’t even try to show the least sign of freshness. Love vibrates with infinite reverbs of the most syncopated blues-rock masters (from Free to Faces), just like Phoenix is a modulation of the wild wah-wah and military drumming of White Room (Cream) and Revolution mimics Led Zeppelin. They only try being inventive in the allegro con brio of Big Neon Glitter and Hollow Man. She sells Sanctuary, the zenith of this phase, simply pours from the fusion of the two methods, with just a touch more demonism.

Electric (1987) instead molded itself after the Rolling Stones, as in Wild Flower and Love Removal Machine. The record exudes blues energy from each note, having well learned the lesson of AC/DC (Lil` Devil), Cream (Aphrodisiac Jacket), Free (Electric Ocean), Led Zeppelin (King Contrary Man), Golden Earring (Bad Fun).

After that the band relocated to Los Angeles and became part of the “street” scene. Sonic Temple (1989) sold three millions records, positioning itself among the genre’s commercial classics (Automatic Blues the new plunder from Led Zeppelin stores and Fire Woman the most imaginative song).

Ceremony, Wild Hearted Son and White are the leading tracks of Ceremony (1991), recorded by Astbury and Duffy along with veteran session-men.

The single Coming Down (Sire) preceded the release of Cult (Virgin, 1994), whose Gone and Real Girl made amends for latter years slips, resuming the systematic study of hard-rock of the 70’s. The band, though, split up soon after.

High Octane Cult (Beggars Banquet) is a collection featuring their most salient songs.

Close relative of Danzig, Astbury embodies the contradictions and hypocrisy of an epigone who obscured (though temporarily) the memory of his models: from this moment on he must start walking on his own legs.


(Original text by Piero Scaruffi)

After a brief stint with the Holy Barbarians, in time to make the Brit-pop single Space Junkie and the prog-rock album Cream (Beggar Banquet, 1996), Ian Astbury released his first solo album, Spirit\Light\Speed (Beggars Banquet, 2000). Astbury has converted to electronic keyboards and attempts a fusion of electronica and rock, of Primal Scream and Led Zeppelin, of techno and Sisters of Mercy, best exemplified by High Time Amplifier, Back On Earth, It's Over.

Beyond Good And Evil (Atlantic, 2001) is sort of a summary of Cult's career, mixing the successful (as in \ "money-making") elements of each of their albums, from the familiar devilish atmospheres of War, Rise and American Gothic to the Doors-meets-Led Zeppelin routine of Breathe (this year's Fire Woman) and Speed of Light. Nico (this year's power ballad) and My Bridges Burn show the band still has feelings. The parables True Believers, The Saint and Ashes and Ghosts, while marred by more cliches than a politician's speech, show the singer growing as a person (with hints of a new-born Buddhist faith). Ian Astbury's Jim Morrison imitation is hardly any better, but Billy Duffy's no-frills three-chord guitar progressions are augmented with distortion a` la mode.

Born Into This (2007) returned to no-frills visceral hard-rock (Dirty Little Rockstar). Choice of Weapon (2012) was a faithful reproduction of the sound of the 1980s.

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