Words By: Gerrod Harris
Release Date: February 5th, 2016, via The Cult Recording Inc.
The Cult has struck big for their tenth studio record, Hidden City! The UK rockers lead by vocalist Ian Astbury and guitarist Billy Duffy return with a hard hitting album which takes as much influence from their classic rock roots as it does from hard rock’s current landscape.
The opening track, “Dark Energy” gives off exactly what the title describes: a dirty, gritty, and mysterious vibe, one which beckons for you to shake to. Considering the entire song is driven by the same shuffle, they do an excellent job of adding new layers to the song, most notably a wonderfully obnoxious guitar swell ending in a squeal, and a bridge section which introduces a gentle piano part. The core of the song remains the same; a heart pulsing, guitar chugging feeling, yet over the course of its near five minute length, it never feels repetitious. Funny enough, Dark Energy should have been the name of this album as it often demonstrates a similar feeling of tension and tribal bombast as the opening track does. Even the ballad, “Birds Of Paradise” evokes a dark dissonance which many would avoid in their slower numbers.
Duffy’s guitar work, as always, is one of the best parts of any record by The Cult. His tendency to play around with chords in a loose and rhythmic manner- such as “No Love Lost” and “In Blood”- gives him a tasteful style reminiscent of Keith Richards. This however, does not stop him from delivering an aggressive, hard hitting solo when needed. His melodic riffs too stand out, especially that which “G O A T” is built upon. As the song progresses, he varies upon the initial riff, and eventually it basically grows into a very bluesy solo. His unique voice on the guitar, as well as the multiple layers each song seems to have has made for a delightfully guitar heavy record. The other constant half who has remained through a number of lineup changes, Astbury, has shown no signs of aging-or slowing down- in his voice. He can still belt out the incredibly high notes with a level of power most young singers would be envious of. Tracks like “Hinterland”, when compared to “Deeply Ordered Chaos” and “Lilies” show not just a dynamic vocal range but an ability to easily shift tones from that of the classic rock legends of the likes of Robert Plant to modern rockers who choose to sing lower with a certain heaviness in their voice.
The Cult sits in an interesting position. Emerging in the early 80’s, they reached mainstream success towards the middle of the decade and continued to do so through the 90’s until their hiatus. Now, they have achieved-pardon the pun-cult status as a band whom offered much to what would become the modern rock style which echoed through the 90’s, and burst into the 2000’s, while still fitting the bill as a classic rock band. They are one of the few bands around today whom still straddle between the two styles seamlessly (the only other I can think of being Slash featuring Myles Kennedy and The Conspirators). Hidden City is a testament to just that; depending on the song you’re listening to your opinion of them being more classic rock or modern hard rock shifts. Songs like “G O A T”, “Heathens” and “Hinterland” evoke a sense pulled straight from the 1970’s, while tracks like “No Love Lost”, “In Blood” and “Birds Of Paradise” have a distinct modern edge. With the exception of two filler songs, “Dance The Night” and “Avalanche Of Light”, Hidden City is an excellent album which crosses not just styles, but generations of hard rock, ultimately giving The Cult a unique sound, deserving of a greater respect among a younger generation of rockers.
1: Dark Energy
2: No Love Lost
3: Dance The Night
4: In Blood
5: Birds Of Paradise
7: G O A T
8: Deeply Ordered Chaos
9: Avalanche Of Light
12: Sound And Fury