IAN McCulloch is finally facing up to his demons on Echo & The Bunnymen's new album, Meteorites, their first since The Fountain five years ago.

“For me, this is a whole new approach. It’s more edgy than anything I’ve ever done,” says McCulloch, now 54. “I’m dealing with something on this record I didn’t want to deal with for a long time.”

Released on 429 Records/Caroline on May 26, the Bunnymen's 12th studio album since their 1978 formation comprises ten MCulloch songs, recorded in London and Liverpool and produced by the legendary Youth, with guitar contributions from fellow founder member Will Sergeant, added late in the day.

A year ago, McCulloch found himself in a dark place. After leading the Bunnymen through 35 years of epic highs and turbulent lows, the Liverpudlian singer realised it was time to look inwards. His songwriting partnership with Sergeant had virtually ground to a halt and years of rock excess and running away from personal problems had left him feeling adrift and unsettled. “I wasn’t happy with a lot of stuff,” he admits. “Emotionally I was at a very low ebb.”

Yet from this slough of despond, Meteorites unexpectedly began to take shape. Holed up in his Liverpool flat, mired in self-reflection, McCulloch started writing music on a bass guitar that was lying around, a process that proved cathartic and fruitful.

“Straight away I felt better for it,” he says. “I had been thinking of taking five years off on an island, or whatever, but suddenly all these songs came from nowhere. It was really exciting and fresh. This record’s about my persona journey, my rebirth, even if it's a Bunnymen record.”

McCulloch was encouraged to confront his feelings by Youth, who had produced his 2012 live solo recording, Holy Ghosts, and was drafted in to work on the nascent Meteorites at his Attic studio in London.

“Youth said, ‘Your lyrics are brilliant, but you’ve got something to get out' about where I was at that time,” says McCulloch. “So I followed his advice. I wrote from the soul, more so than the heart and the brain. It scares the hell out of me, and surprises me, how much I’ve been able to reveal without putting a veil over it.

"There were signs all through my life of what was down there inside me. [Debut album Crocodiles track] Rescue touched on it as an 18 or 19 year old, but maybe it was seeing the future more than what was happening at the time.”

On Meteorites' closing track, New Horizons, McCulloch contemplates whether his Liverpool upbringing may have profoundly scarred him in ways he had never comprehended. “I realised the first word of the song was going to be ‘if’– ‘If I got distant, from all the gifts that heaven sent'. It was me finally seeing what people close to me could see for so many years, like my wife, friends," he says.

"I remember Lorraine [his wife] saying, ‘You think it hasn’t affected you, the way your dad was?’. He was a compulsive gambler; everyone loved him, but they also thought he was fraught with deep problems. But I was like, ‘No, he wasn’t ****** up, he was my dad'. Lorraine said, ‘You don’t see how much you are your dad’."

McCulloch's reaction was decisive. "I wanted to write about it, and see where it gets me and takes me,” he says. He was equally candid in his lyrics for Grapes Upon The Vine, where he addresses losing himself in rock’n’roll excess, and for the blue-eyed soul of Is This A Breakdown, on which he confronts the attraction of oblivion.

“I love Is This A Breakdown; the title alone is great,” says McCulloch. "It’s the kind of title Ronnie Spector might have sung in the Sixties. That line - ‘What do I want? What do I need? What have you got, to make my eyes bleed?’ – I thought, ‘Will people get what I mean?’ But it just seems right, cos that’s basically all that’s left sometimes. Give me this, that or the other to get me there. Everybody knows about it anyway.”

Will Sergeant. the only other surviving Bunnyman from the original line-up, was absent from the initial Meteorites recording sessions, but a playback of several tracks at Youth’s London house persuaded him to contribute guitar.

Sergeant’s parts were recorded at his home near Liverpool as the deadline to finish the album rapidly approached. The results underscored McCulloch's feeling that this should not be a solo album but a bona fide addition to the Bunnymen canon.

“When I heard the stuff Will did, I thought, ‘That’s it, that’s what he does,’” he says. “It has come from his soul as well. He’s expressing himself and you can hear it. A lot of the guitar lines were mine, but you can hear Will doing his Eastern thing on Constantinople, and that bit he does on Market Town, it just sounds so Echo & The Bunnymen.”

For McCulloch, Meteorites has been a journey of self-discovery, both truthful and spiritually cleansing. “It’s been a way of dealing with where you’re at, though it doesn’t necessarily stop the pain,” he says.

“As a friend of mine says, ‘You’re never out of the woods.’ But now I’m doing it properly, I’m writing soliloquies up there with Shakespeare. I need to be as good as him, not some d***head in a rock band.”

Echo & The Bunnymen's new album, Meteorites, will be released on May 26 on 429 Records/Caroline. Their May tour will not visit Yorkshire; the nearest shows are at Newcastle Tyne Theatre, May 13; Manchester Ritz, May 14; Liverpool Philharmonic Hall, May 20.