Lush Brutality

thecult2 WPThe artistic war and gravitational pull of Ian Astbury and Billy Duffy’s relationship has, for years, been pivotal to creating their unique brand of rock.

Astbury, lyrics and manifesto, was brought up on Native American spirituality and today flexes Tibetian Buddhism as Duffy, increasingly articulate maturing muso guitarist, exudes tough, earthed and pragmatic Mancunian tendencies; it’s a brotherly love.

Bristling with thunder and beauty, Hidden City is their 10th LP, and final instalment of a slightly loose trilogy. Traces of post punk and goth expose the band’s early roots. Tribal rumble and rock ‘n’ roll riffing give way to string lifted vocals for Dark Energy with almost a Sisters of Mercy tone on Dance the Night.

Duffy’s Love era chimes feed into a melodramatic piano for the atmospheric finale on the epic Birds of Paradise. It’s held in from being the usual Cult crescendo of yodelling and heavy blues riffs into an alternate Bond theme.

Hinterland is an urgent, hard hitting, galloping track with a deep, forest burning riff escalating to a screeching guitar solo circa Ceremony. The acid psyche distortion on GOAT and John Tempesta’s liberated drumming is glued together by a grizzled echo of the Phoenix guitar workout, a highlight of Duffy’s natural free flowing play across the whole record.

Deeply Ordered Chaos is heavy with doom, filmic strings sweep and jag leading to barrelling drums with Duffy squalling and buzzing as the strings struggle for air against Astbury’s call.

12inch-VINYLTEMPLATE-final2Astbury’s emotive voice croaks with worldly concern and a plead for peace. There’s still volume, just not the bellowing voice from Valhalla. On Born into This Cash pastiche, Holy Mountain, Astbury was awkward. On Sound and Fury, with the use of strings and a yearning piano, he illuminates an eerie thrum, creating a Cult version of Bowie’s Wild is the Wind.

He has gears to shift through, but his poise is perfect and he exhibits an insight through his cascading delivery. His melody lines are slightly disjointed, misaligned with the music, almost under singing, but with spectacular results.

Duffy has searched for sonically fertile grounds over the course of this trilogy, and has reaped increasingly wondrous rewards, majestically so in the case of Hidden City.

It’s a heavy, brutal record in sound and lyrical content – Parisian office violence, Syria and world chaos – countered brilliantly with strings and sensitive piano. Hidden City is the most primal, powerful and eloquent recording of the band’s career.

Further Cult reviews: Choice of Weapon, Electric 13 and The Cult Live Brisbane 2013.

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