Sound: After The Cult achieved massive commercial success for "Sonic Temple" in 1989, they continued in the hard rock vein of their sound with their 1991 follow up: "Ceremony". This appears to be the only Cult album not reviewed on this website, which is part of my reason for reviewing it, but mainly it's because I believe this to be one of their best albums. At the time of it's release it was a disappointing album commercially because there was such a demand for grunge music, and finding the "next Nirvana", and this album couldn't deliver that. But 21 years on, looking back to this album shows it in a new light; as a hard rock behemoth.
Thanks to Billy Duffy, this album is full of great riffs, great solos and it's such a thrilling, heavy rock record. This album shows Duffy to be at his technical best and his guitar work is staggering in places. This album spawned The Cult definitive "Wild Hearted Son" which is one of their most impressive songs to date.
The opening track "Ceremony" is thunderous and epic, followed by "Wild Hearted Son" and then by the stomp rock of "Earth Mofo" which has great rock riffs followed by some great guitar solo work. "White" starts more softly, reminding me of Led Zeppelin, before it goes into heavy guitar riffs and a nut-cracking solo. "If" is driven by piano melodies initially before Duffy sticks his guitar in and turns it into an epic rock ballad, then you have the very rock n roll "Full Tilt" which could have easily been on "Electric". Then the second single "Heart Of Soul" matches acoustic chords with guitar hero riffing. This is followed by more hard rock with "Bangkok Rain" and another balladic yet gentle and emotive strings-driven "Indian". Then you've got the extremely epic "Sweet Salvation" that really gives off emotive vibes before "Wonderland" ends the album with a final yet definitive hard rock ramble.
If you're a fan of Slash then I believe this is The Cult album where you will appreciate Billy Duffy's playing the most. His playing here is hot and he proves himself to be a true guitar hero. // 9
Lyrics: Turning gaze to Ian Astbury's performance on this record reveals him to be an amazing rock frontman, if not one of the best. His lyrics range from his interest in Native American culture to themes of love but once you listen to the record, the lyrics almost don't matter.
This is because Astbury's voice is staggeringly brilliant and even when Duffy is soloing away, Astbury doesn't see a barrier where he should stop and let Billy take the limelight; Astbury shouts away through Duffy's intricate solos and that creates such a creative chemistry between them. His voice perfectly compliments the music. Astbury can be raw yet emotive and his voice is so powerful that partnered with Duffy's guitar, it drives the record to places The Cult had not been before and haven't been since. Just watch the music video for "Wild Hearted Son" and you can hear what I'm talking about but also you'll see Astbury's skill as a frontman. His moves are as killer as his voice is and I think he is one of the best singer/frontman from that time and maybe even all time. To say the least, Astbury really rocks this record. // 10
Overall Impression: This album may have been a commercial flop but musically this is balls out hard rock. That said, some people may find this album to be cheesey and pompous which is hardly unjustified. But after this album The Cult threw away the sounds of Ceremony in favour of more alternative rock styles. In comparison to their other albums, this is as hard rock as they've ever been and the musicianship of Ian Astbury and Billy Duffy's partnership shines through here in a way that you simply can't ignore or refute. It's loud, it's hard, it's epic, maybe a bit overblown here and there but it's exciting and thrilling and it gets your heart pumping.
It's just another phase of The Cult's career, but one that often gets overlooked which is sad when this album has some pretty amazing hard rock moments. If you like GN'R then you'll easily get into this album. It's balls out hard rock and the chemistry between Astbury and Duffy is what makes this album so special. It's also what make the Cult so special, to this day. // 8