THE CULT (1983–95, 1998–PRESENT). Ian Astbury (vocals) Billy Duffy (guitar), Jamie Stewart (bass, moved to rhythm guitar, replaced by Kid Chaos then Stewart again, Charlie Drayton, Kinley Wolf, Craig Adams, Martyn LeNoble, Billy Morrison, Craig Adams, others), Raymond Smith (drums, replaced by Nigel Preston, Mark Brzezicki, Les Warner Micky Curry, Michael Lee, Matt Sorum, Scott Garrett, John Tempesta, others).
The Cult started out as Southern Death Cult, a goth band with Native American trappings led by Ian Astbury, before morphing into the slightly more accessible Death Cult and finally simply the Cult. Although the Cult’s first proper album as the Cult, Dreamtime is a psychedelic blend of goth and hippie noise mixed together with a little post-punk. It also indicated, particularly through Astbury’s wailing vocals and Duffy’s tasteful yet provocative solos, that more was to come. Their breakthrough record in 1985, Love, provided the band with several hits, including “Rain” and the dynamic “She Sells Sanctuary.” These singles were still indicative of the band’s love for sixties psychedelia over hard rock. After more personnel changes, the band went into the studio for their next production and soon began to record more aggressive material. Dissatisfied with the sound they were getting, the band decamped to Los Angeles where they met with producer Rick Rubin, who ended up producing their new record after making the band re-record what he considered “inferior” versions of the band’s new songs.
When the new record Electric was released, Astbury and guitarist Billy Duffy had fully grown out their hair and morphed into a power metal band, much to the surprise of their original audience. Electric was a massive crossover hit, containing the powerful crunch of “Love Removal Machine,” an AC/DC-style metal song, albeit with Astbury’s sonic shriek wailing over the top. While “Love Removal Machine” was essentially the same song as the band’s last big single “Rain,” it didn’t seem to disturb fans. The next album provided yet another rewrite, “Fire Woman,” which proved conclusively that the same melody can be repeated at least three times before it gets old. Sonic Temple was as good a raw metal album as any put out that year, and Bob Rock’s production was certainly sympathetic to the band’s strengths, but the formula was wearing thin, and the Cult began to flounder on the next two records, Ceremony and The Cult, neither of which repeated the success of Electric or Sonic Temple. The band soon went on hiatus for several years after friction between Astbury and Duffy became too much for the band. During the hiatus, Astbury took part in a much-maligned reunion of the Doors with Ray Manzarek and Robby Krieger (drummer John Densmore sat out the tours and sued the band), which did as much to besmirch the memory of that band as anything else.
After several years of inactivity, Astbury and Duffy reformed the Cult and are currently on tour with a new rhythm section. Drummer Matt Sorum went on to drum for both Guns N’ Roses and later Velvet Revolver. The Cult’s metal legacy is dependent on the two “metal” records they released at the end of the eighties, and despite the band’s tendency towards pretension, they are two ultimately listenable records and highly recommended. Unfortunately, recent releases are essentially retreads, and metal fans who wish to go beyond the two metal albums should probably seek out Love to hear the band at their most experimental.
Discography: Dreamtime (Beggar’s Banquet, 1984); Love (Beggar’s Banquet, 1985); Electric (Beggar’s Banquet, 1987); Sonic Temple (Beggar’s Banquet, 1989); Ceremony (Beggar’s Banquet, 1991); The Cult (Beggar’s Banquet, 1994); Beyond Good and Evil (Atlantic, 2001); Born Into This (Roadrunner, 2007).