|There are a zillion bands, and a zillion band websites, so why is this one here?
Because the Cult are a damn good band, largely unknown in the mainstream. They've had a few hits over the years but never the wide radio airplay or MTV rotation necessary to be universally known. Perhaps they rock too hard for goth fans, their heavy-metal edge puts off alternative fans, and rock fans don't like the angst and spiritualism threaded throughout their music.
Vocalist Ian Astbury formed Southern Death Cult in British post-punk 1983, then joined ex-Theatre of Hate guitarist Billy Duffy and bassist Jamie Stewart (first with drummer Ray Mondo and later Nigel Preston) to become the Death Cult. The name was shortened to the Cult with the release of their first album Dreamtime. It turned out to be a prophetic name: during the years since they've developed -- and kept -- a loyal audience of diverse fans. Go to a Cult show and you'll see long-haired headbangers, suburban jocks, musicians, black-clad goths, college students, trendy style-setters, hippies and flower children, and "ordinary" people of all ages. The diversity of Cult fans' personal styles and musical tastes, and the fact that they all get it, clearly shows that theirs is a true cult following, in every sense of the word.
It's about the music. Duffy's guitar playing has always been brilliant, tasty and unpredictable. His style and technique are admired by musicians and his tone is always perfect for the song. Astbury has developed into a strong, powerful rock singer with a commanding stage presence and a charismatic vocal and performing style often (legitimately) compared to Jim Morrison. Like many duos that have an awesome creative chemistry as a team, they've also had problems working together, which reportedly explains the time gaps between projects. The addition of substances to the mix has been another factor in the erratic nature of their career, just as it's affected many others with creative brilliance. Other Cult members will come and go: the Astbury-Duffy pairing always has been and always will be at the heart of what the Cult is about, and the music they write together always works.
People may listen to Cult music casually and then one day something clicks, and it suddenly makes more sense, it means more. They'll go back and listen with a new awareness to all the Cult music they can find and discover new layers in it. They'll seek out the many remixes and singles not available on the major label albums. They'll notice that when they're really listening to the Cult in their car that people around them are walking and moving to the same rhythm, like they do in that car commercial. They'll start playing it for their friends and trying to explain the magic... the friends won't catch on, but a few will come back in time when it clicks and they realize the subtle depths of this music, and they'll be enthusiastic about their new discovery.
And now they're back.
Back in the studio and back on the road, the Cult have returned once again. The combination of supporting Jimmy Page and the Black Crowes during some of their tour dates, performing the opening track on the Gone in 60 Seconds soundtrack, and the unmistakable She Sells Sanctuary riff being used in a car commercial are giving the band sudden wide exposure, possibly wider than ever before. Will they break through the mainstream familiarity barrier or remain a cult phenomenon, picking up a few more core fans along the way? Only time will tell. Either way, it'll be worth watching... and listening.
|Death Cult photo: Bleddyn Butcher
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