Well I never. Two years ago the chances of ever hearing a new Cult long-player seemed remote at best, with Ian Astbury emphatically declaring “There will be no new album. Nobody buys albums. It’s an arcane format”. Instead the band opted to issue multi-media ‘capsules’ made up of live performances, videos and the odd new song.
Quite what caused the dramatic volte-face of Choice Of Weapon is unclear, but we should be thankful just the same. Astbury has cited political unrest, the banking crisis and Middle East insurrection as some of the issues to have stung the band into action, but more than anything this feels like a return to classic Cult tropes rather than any huffy sermonising.
The dual production chops of Bob Rock and Masters Of Reality man Chris Goss have faithfully channelled the Zeppenwolf sound of Sonic Temple and Beyond Good And Evil (both of which Rock produced), thus ensuring The Cult do what The Cult do best. This is two-fisted rock as heavy as it is righteously belligerent, marked by some of the most ferocious guitar-spanking of Billy Duffy’s career and Astbury in all his howling, shamanic finery.
The Wolf is levitational to the point of delirium, Duffy boiling up a riff with trace elements of She Sells Sanctuary, while Astbury exhorts us not to be deceived by liars. The corrosive double whammy of Honey From A Knife and Amnesia, meanwhile, will likely shake up those who still believe these former goth-punks have never quite been ‘metal’ enough to warrant the full devil’s horns salute.
Not everything hits the mark. Mid-tempo anti-ballad Life>Death might well elicit a hoisting of lighters in the enormodomes of this world, but on record it never really sparks. The same goes for A Pale Horse, which hints at some mystic profundity but can’t quite unshackle itself from rock cliché. The rest, though, is very handy indeed.
And while it’s easy to tag The Cult as a two-man operation, respect is also due to the rhythm section of Chris Wyse and John Tempesta, admirably holding down the bottom end while their more fêted bandmates cut fast and loose. Even the slower tunes carry the valedictory charge of a band reborn. Not only that, The Cult sound positively inflamed throughout Choice Of Weapon.
Contrary to prior wisdom, the album is very much alive. Long live The Cult.