It’s been six years since the last album by The Cult, Hidden City, was released. Forced into hibernation by the pandemic, the legendary British band took stock, reset, and have returned with their 11th album. The good news is that Under The Midnight Sun contains everything a fan of the band would demand. A familiarity in the songwriting style, combined with a fresh approach that elicits moments of excitement, surprise and astonishment.
The Cult – Under The Midnight Sun (Black Hill Records)
Release Date: 7 October 2022
Words: Paul Hutchings
The first gasp arrives early. Track two, to be precise, with the song A Cut Inside. From the hypnotic sway of the percussion, Billy Duffy’s mesmerising riff and Ian Astbury’s haunting delivery, the song soon begins to soar with a swagger that only The Cult have. The melodies are beautiful, the harmonics delicious, and the overall delivery magnificent. It’s a true highlight on an album filled with highlights.
Drawing the album title from his experience of walking the grounds of the Provinssirock festival in Finland, singer Astbury recalls the occult moment that comes with the ‘midnight sun’. “It’s three in the morning, the sun’s up, and there are all these beautiful people in this halcyon moment,” Astbury remembers. “People are laying on the grass, making out, drinking, smoking. There were rows of flowers at the front of the stage from the performances earlier that evening. It was an incredible moment.”
Pulling in a range of lyrical inspirations from Brian Jones, Brion Gysin, William Burroughs, Buddhism, the Beats, and the Age of Aquarius, there is plenty to absorb in the 35 minutes or so. Once more, it’s quality over quantity, from the opening self-reflection of Mirror, the anthemic Vendetta X, which sees Astbury in fine vocal form, through to the finale of the title track, Under the Midnight Sun. It’s an album that sees The Cult in majestic form.
Lead single Give Me Mercy demonstrates that the partnership between Duffy and Astbury remains strong, Duffy’s haunting riffs remaining as dynamic as ever. The rhythmic sway of the tracks allows the opportunity to close your eyes and let the music flow, washing over you. Astbury’s sonic delivery remains powerful, full of emotion and character.
Outer Heaven sees him in full flow, the orchestral additions blending perfectly with Duffy’s guitar work and Ian Matthews’s driving drumming. The Cult have turned to producer Tom Dalgety for the first time, and the man who has worked with Pixies, as well as Royal Blood and Ghost, has done a fine job. Astbury says that Dalgety helped “bring a new musical shape and frequency to our process”.
One listen to the sonically charged Knife Through Butterfly Heart is enough to hear that’s true.
At times hypnotic, often enchanting, and always full of passion and character, Under The Midnight Sun provides the timely reminder that although The Cult hit their 40th anniversary next year, there is plenty of magic left in a band whose wider catalogue is criminally overlooked far too often.