Rusted Root's concept of course on Cruel Sun is to infuse worldbeat licks into passionate rock music in order to make it more passionate still. There's a tribal element to the proceedings, announced by the Aztec-looking death's head on the cover and followed up by the chants and environmentalist messages on the disc. The songs all pull you in: the drumming thunders along, the largely acoustic guitar work is quick and harmonious, and there are lots of nice hooks and riffs. But the influences show far too much: the anthemic guitar work and declamatory vocals are right out of U2; the African vocal riff from "Send Me on My Way" is bad Ladysmith Black Mambazo; and the little quaver Mike Glabicki frequently gets in his voice is far too reminiscent of Roxy Music. On the other hand, the flute work on "Cat Turned Blue" is classy and does not sound at all like Jethro Tull. "Artificial Winter" builds very effectively to its ritual frenzy and makes good use of Liz Berlin's passionate cries. Cruel Sun walks that fine line between vision and pretension with just a little wobbling. Amazingly, even when you see the strings, the album still works, still compels, still rocks.
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AllMusic Review by Kurt Keefner