Southern Death Cult the band which first brought Ian Astbury to the attention was an immediate connection with my heart which only deepened with tracks like Moya, Fatman, and Apache. Upon their demise and the new team of Astbury and Billy Duffy linking to create The Cult, the attraction continued into their excellent debut album Dreamtime which spawned one of my all time fav songs Bone Bag. From this point though the evolution of the band and that of my tastes went separate ways and as their sound became grander and more rock orientated the appeal and previous attraction diminished. There were still moments where we met on a mutual level but more often than not all that was inspired was an appreciative nod and only fleeting attention given.
That was until with thanks to my friend Raymond, there was an introduction to the new Cult album Choice Of Weapon. With limited expectations but mild intrigue due to the warm words he had given it, time came to sit down with the release and see if it lived up to his acclaim. With full surprise and an overwhelmed heart the answer is yes and more. The album is wonderful a release the word impressive is almost inadequate for. Choice Of Weapon rekindles the passion and in many ways returns to the instinctive partly tribalistic sounds that first drew us together. The album is not a throwback but seemingly the result of a revitalised and creatively fresh revisit to The Cult one longed for but did not expect to return is back.
The album has a less complicated textured sound than in previous years but is still distinctively and inventively skilled a release as only The Cult can ever create. Astbury is still the enigmatic performer and presence as he ever was but with a maturity and control which makes him even more formidable a vocalist and frontman whilst musically Duffy with bassist Chris Wyse, and drummer John Tempesta, bring a harder and less flamboyant enterprise to contrast and compliment perfectly.
Released through Cooking Vinyl Records, the album captivates from the very first stroke of the guitars across the ear on Honey From A Knife. Picking up an urgency spliced with exciting riffs and the group chants behind Astbury, the song storms the senses with a punk essence and infectious creativity. The pomp and overblown soundscapes often littering their releases are nowhere in sight, the song simply a striking piece of irresistible rock n roll.
The excellent start is backed up by Elemental Light and The Wolf. The first track is a full emotive pleasure which searches out and spreads like a contagious fever of invigorating pleasure. Recalling the band at their birth and with the melodic grace of The Mission, the song touches the nerve and emotion that first pulled them to the heart in the eighties. The second of the two songs is a coarser eruption of imaginative and firm intent, its melodic craft and enflamed breath leaving deep scorch marks of pleasure. As each song plays it assumes favourite track status such the strength of all and the album though it is impossible to truly choose.
The Bowiesque Life > Death is an enveloping ballad of power and intensity whilst the rampant Amnesia lays a stomp upon the ear which is as contagious as it is intimidating, both showing the full diversity within the album and the unique Cult sound. Astbury and Duffy are immense throughout the album but that can equally be said about Tempesta and Wyse both adding a depth and addictive menace to songs. The keys especially bring a fire and enveloping atmosphere to the songs adding extra invention and craft.
As the album works though one impressive track after another all continuing to enrich and incite thoughts and senses superbly we discover the likes of the excellent hypnotic Wilderness Now prowling with an ominous air and the closing The Night In the City Forever, a shadowed song exposing the underbelly of dark lives and worlds, to great pleasure.
With lyrics dealing with things like drugs and soured relationships on the album, Astbury is as cutting and expressive as ever and though no longer able to grab those explosive higher notes of yesteryear he has found a strong and more impactful range to enhance every song. Produced and recorded alongside Chris Goss with long-time Cult collaborator and producer Bob Rock finishing off the album, Choice Of Weapon is an unexpected and welcomingly outstanding release and easily one of the best albums so far this year. The Cult I know and love has returned and arguably is even better.