Review Summary: The album is unceremoniously sweet regardless of some missteps.
Over the course of four albums released The Cult demonstrated an admirable ability to change within the constraints of the rock genre. Post-punk Dreamtime
laid a rather confident grounding for the band that possessed two powerful weapons at its disposal: strong vocals of Ian Astbury (you may also count his fascination in the Native American culture) and formidable guitar work of Billy Duffy. Electric
took a surprising turn towards hard rock a la AC/DC
managing to surpass most of the Australians’ 80s output in the meantime. Sonic Temple
shifted its focus to more epic rock music inspired by Led Zeppelin
. And despite the dominance of puffy hair and synthesizers in rock music at the time The Cult was able to attract the attention of the fickle audience with its revival of classic rock without succumbing to obvious outside influence. So it would not be exaggeration to state that many rock fans waited with impatience and hope for the next LP titled Ceremony
Except behind a confident façade of The Cult problems were snowballing. Success can go the head of even the most close-knit bands, and The Cult wasn’t an exception. Add to it the fact that relationships between its two leaders – Astbury and Duffy (which were always strained, though it had a positive impact on their output) – worsened in such a way neither could be in the same room during the album recording. And if we toss in the “usual” problems with alcohol/narcotics/partying (take a pick) and departure of a founding bass player, you would not get a recipe for a record that could stand on the same level as Love
and Sonic Temple
. Nevertheless the final result turned out to be much better than expected.
the two-man band decided not to introduce drastic changes to its sound, instead following an evolutionary approach and further developing the one chosen on Sonic Temple
. In terms of general feel the album can be compared to epic Physical Graffiti
by the mighty Led Zeppelin
: each track is a grand-scale sound tapestry woven out of spectacular guitar lines, commanding vocals, orchestral accompaniment highlighting overall drama – all efforts focused on making you feel the scope. And, surprisingly, the band tends to hit the spot more often than not. In spite of the fact that an average song length on the album is 5-and-a-half minutes, Ceremony
is capable of grabbing the listener and not letting him or her go until the end, and that is a feat in itself. A strong trifecta which open the LP – title track, dynamic single Wild Hearted Son
and aggressive Earth Mofo
– create a sense of another triumph. However, unfortunately, later misses do tend to undermine the colossus that at first seemed to be untouchable.
Grander scale inevitably leads to overreaching, a repeated failure of creative breaks and loss of critical self-control. And because of that the excellent track White
overstays its welcome by a minute or so. Or Full Tilt
that on one hand rocks hard, but on another – bases itself on a generic riff. Or Bangkok Rain
, while being decent cuts, sound like B-side material that found its way to the album. Nevertheless, do not think these tracks are bad. On the contrary, The Cult manages to shake itself up and adds an element or two that wouldn’t let to call many of the songs middling: say, Full Tilt
is redeemed by the energetic performances, and the solos in the second half of Heart of Soul
are so strong that the memory of the bewilderingly generic first half quickly evaporates.
Even though Ceremony
is objectively weaker than preceding albums, The Cult released an LP that deserves repeated listens. It is not a definite failure, it is more of a victim of two battling egos, ill-timed departure of band members and lack of outside control. This time The Cult missed a step, but maintained overall course.