Ever listened to a contemporary album by a classic band you loved as a youngster, only to finish it with a feeling of…meh? Not that said album is necessarily bad or a far departure from what you, as a longtime fan, are used to hearing. It just feels like they’re going through the motions. There’s no spirit in it, no zesty scent of innovation. That feeling of doing something meaningful and honest just isn’t there anymore because they’ve been following the same formula for what feels like forever. It’s no longer art; it’s a day job–something to do so they don’t have to work at Burger King or some soul-sucking desk job.
This, however, is not the case with British goth rockers The Cult, namely their 2016 release Hidden City.
In short, it’s great.
Granted, the album isn’t perfect. It has its lesser tracks, some less polished lyrics here and there. But, really, how many rock albums can you say are amazing from front to back without any let-up, even the ones unanimously considered great? I mean yeah there’s You’re Living All Over Me by Dinosaur Jr and The Beatles “White Album,” but those aside, perfectly cut gems are few and far between.
But it’s still great nonetheless.
The Cult has managed to capture all the meaning and mystery of their early days while still showcasing their chops as mature musicians. Want an example? Listen to the moody riffing contained in the track “Birds of Paradise” “or “Deeply Ordered Chaos.” The same ideas that went into the band’s breakout single “She Sells Sanctuary” are there. Yet never so much that the final product feels stale. Nor is it so far and away into contemporary territory that diehard fans could accuse the band of “selling out.” There are definite vintage ingredients, of course, yet the mixture is a refreshingly new blend.
The album’s most shining track, though, is “Dark Energy.” And what a track it is! Starting off with galloping drums and an almost bluesy garage rock guitar riff, the song wastes no time layering on copious amounts of sparkling reverberation until it seems to have been recorded in some ancient cathedral. The song conjures images of stone castles, devil bats, and occult ceremonies, not necessarily with its lyrical content but with its darkly powerful delivery. It’s spooky yet uplifting, mysterious yet danceable. In short it’s exactly what one would expect a crafted Cult tune to be.
What can be said about The Cult that hasn’t already been during their three decades of existence? Evidently plenty. Along with Bauhaus and Joy Division, they paved the dark path walked by the goth bands which formed out of the same ‘80s zeitgeist. Their seeds later sprouted in the likes of Marilyn Manson, Rob Zombie, and HIM. Hell, even the likes of Angels and Airwaves and The Killers would likely have been vastly different bands without The Cult’s experiments in moody ambience. Now with this new album, they’re reminding us that more can be done with these sonic forms that made the band so successful once upon a time. They still have more to say and can say it with all the bravado and honesty of the past. It reminds us that the band still has a place in today’s market, not as a mere nostalgia act, but a living piece of music history.
The Cult will be playing Louder Than Life Festival this October in Louisville, KY, along with other amazing acts such as Ghost, 68, Cheap Trick, and Slayer! So if you’re in the bluegrass state, make a point to go see them. If you’re not, then plan a road trip. And if you’re thinking you’ve got something better to do…reconsider.