THE Cult’s tenth studio album finds them delivering a powerful mix of the brutal and the beautiful, the spiritual and the reflective.
Against a backdrop of Billy Duffy’s trademark riffs and soaring guitar licks, Ian Astbury’s bartitone vocals are sometimes strained, almost spoken in parts and occasionally near-mystical in their content.
Overall, Hidden City is another fine feather in Astbury’s once-furry cap, crammed with light and dark songs and rumbling, roaring rock music. It opens with the blistering pace of the ballsy Dark Energy, weaves its way through the haunting Birds Of Paradise and riff-driven Hinterland and remains thought-provoking if sometimes lyrically weird through to the quite gorgeous Lilies and the brooding finale, Sound And Fury.
Yes, there are a couple of numbers that had me reaching for the fast-forward button, but that still leaves you with ten very good songs.
This is rock music on the edge. It has to be that way, given Astbury’s wont to reinvent himself from Goth to American Indian to goodness-knows-whatever-next.
Hidden City is the third and final part of The Cult’s trilogy that started in 2007 with Born Into This and was followed in 2012 with Choice Of Weapon. They saved the best till last, for this is an album on a par with the band’s golden age in the 1980s when they produced the Love, Electric and Sonic Temple albums.
There are shades of Led Zeppelin, some delicate piano, thumping bass lines and Duffy’s smouldering guitar work to enjoy alongside Astbury’s vocals.
At the age of 53, Astbury’s voice has lost some of that awesome power that was a hallmark of his work 30 years ago, but he still retains the ability to leave you hanging on to his words in quieter moments.
But you might be left wondering quite what the lyrical content is all about. Seek out the answers and you might be more baffled still.
The Cult play Leeds University on March 8