The Cult

Choice of Weapon

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It's been five years since the Cult released the Youth-produced Born into This. While it was plain that Ian Astbury and guitarist Billy Duffy -- with the newly hired rhythm section of bassist Chris Wyse and drummer John Tempesta -- were attempting to reach back to the hard rock attack of Electric and Sonic Temple, the impact of Duffy's guitar sound was blunted by their producer. By contrast, Choice of Weapon, co-produced by Chris Goss and Bob Rock, is urgent, militant, and pissed off. Tempesta and Wyse are no longer hired guns, but the most enduring, tightest rhythm section in the Cult's history. Astbury's youthful wail has been replaced by a deeper, smoother delivery; he's in excellent form and an iconic rock & roll singer. Duffy's guitar roars up front where it belongs. He's as canny as ever in his ability to coax enormous yet infectious ringing riffs from his strings. (Check his rework of his vamp from "She Sells Sanctuary" on "The Wolf," and his pedal to the metal blast on the first single "For the Animals.") As usual, Astbury's lyrics are filled with shamanistic imagery from Native American religion to tantric Tibetan Buddhism (the inner sleeve features photographs of a hunting knife in union with a double vajra), married to political, social, and environmental indignation; throughout his conviction rings true. Even when his lyrics are overly metaphorical, as in "Pale Horse," his delivery is fierce and cuts through the excess. "Honey from a Knife" features a gigantic, distorted chug by Duffy, Wyse, and Tempesta, pushing Astbury to the breaking point, but he's buoyed by a backing vocal chorus and James Edwards' pumping piano (think the Stooges' Raw Power album), and he soars. As a rhythm section, Tempesta and Wyse are buck solid; they provide the proper throb and crunch for Duffy and Astbury to climb atop. Given the pulse of this set, even when a synthetic keyboard is used to introduce "Lucifer," it merely becomes part of the aggressive (yet always accessible) attack. Choice of Weapon is the Cult's finest moment in 23 years; it's the true swaggering heir to the period that birthed Electric and Sonic Temple, and proof that -- contrary to even Astbury's stated belief in 2009 -- the album is far from dead. [As a bonus, the Cult has included a bonus CD with four tracks from 2010's Capture EPs.]

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