This Cult article was written by Ellie Scott, a GIGsoup contributor. Edited by Macon Oxley.
‘Hidden City’ is the tenth album by The Cult and the third of a trilogy of albums, following on from ‘Born into the City’ (2007) and ‘Choice Of Weapon’ (2012). The core of the band remains vocalist Ian Astbury and guitarist Billy Duffy, although there have been a myriad of changes in personnel over the years. The Cult have a clutch of iconic tracks in their musical bank, including the likes of ‘She Sells Sanctuary’, ‘Love Removal Machine’ and ‘L’il Devil’. With this album they add a few more to their substantial stash of gems, but also prove that they can be a little hit-and-miss in consistency.
From the opening Adam and the Ants/Burundi drum beat intro of ‘Dark Energy’, it’s reassuring to know that Astbury is still mentally strutting around the perimeter fence of a Native American reservation (“Tribes are all dancing”). Astbury continues to explore his spirituality through his music and clearly feels there is more to learn and discover after all these years. To quote, “Hidden City is a metaphor for the spiritual light within, not looking for external validation but self-validation, individuation, self-realization. There are plenty of layers to it.”
The central section of the album has a trio of beefy tracks. ‘Hinterland’ is a particularly striking and well-constructed offering, which “reflects a new aeon in the shift of human consciousness as we realign with our planet’s natural rhythms.” (If this is a little tough to digest, just go with it being a big rock track.) This is backed up by ‘G O A T’ (greatest of all time), the biggest belly punch of the album where Astbury pushes his vocals to their most powerful and Duffy lets loose with some ruthless riffing. Then, ‘Deeply Ordered Chaos’ has a slower, more menacing tempo. “Violence in my head, I’m a European” with overt references to defending Paris and weeping for Syria.
‘Dance the Night’ also reminds us that it’s not all about the deep and meaningful; it is possible to simply enjoy the dance elements they can demonstrate in their music. ‘Avalanche of Light’, with its catchy chorus, is indicative of an attempt to lighten the touch.
At times the guitar and drums – as glorious as they are – overpower the vocals slightly and the album feels too long, as there are some forgettable tracks. It drifts away somewhat towards the end. ‘Hidden City’ finishes with a ballad (‘Sound and Fury’). If it was a top-notch song, it might have its place, but as a rule it’s not really what you listen to The Cult for, is it?
‘Hidden City’ is out now on Cooking Vinyl.