Sound — 6
The third and final installment in The Cult's self-described "spiritual trilogy," which began with 2007's "Born Into This" and included the skilled craftsmanship of 2012's "Choice of Weapon," demonstrates a more varietal approach compared to the preceding two releases while touching upon stylistic endeavors reminiscent of each era over the course of the rock group's history. "Hidden City" is not the full fledged hard rock installment which The Cult previously presented with "Choice of Weapon," and to a lesser extent "Born Into This"; the album instead shifts between moments of intensity resemblance to that found on "Sonic Temple," atmospheric alternative rock, and blues influenced arrangements which primarily surface due to the unification of lead vocalist Ian Astbury's soulful approach to the main microphone and the spanning influences of guitarist Billy Duffy. The only immediate difference in regard to personnel is the absence of Chris Wyse, marking "Hidden City" as the first album since The Cult's 1994 self-titled release to not feature Wyse. This vacant position would later be filled by Chris Chaney (Jane's Addiction, Camp Freddy).
Paces are set off to an anticipated launch with "Dark Energy," a song driven by a crunching post-punk chord progression and melody attributed to the reintroduction of synthesizer into the mix, however "Dark Energy" promptly succeeds where the remainder of the high octane compositions often fall short. Despite the complications one would expect following a lineup change, bass does not hold the end result back throughout "Hidden City"; needless to say, the album especially comes through when the band derives from any attempt to try and deliver a "Love Removal Machine Part 6," and instead trying their hand at different territory. This is especially true in the case of the Spanish acoustic rocker "Lilies" and the otherworldly "Birds of Paradise," which demonstrate the group's ability to write material which stand outside of any casual listener's expectations. "G O A T" and "Heathens" are examples of The Cult's ability to craft those previously mentioned hard rock staples, and while both remain standalone hard rockers propelled by emotional vocals and high energy guitar, the remainder of the album shows a completely different side.
Songs such as "Deeply Ordered Chaos" and "Hinterland" reflect upon the times of "Love" and "Ceremony," respectively, where Astbury's bizarre otherworldly lyrics would sound out of place and downright ridiculous if not for his compelling, Jim Morrison-like delivery. This is especially true on "Wildflower," where Astbury's incoherent babbling would perhaps prove fatal if not for the surrounding instrumentation, centered upon crashing cymbals, kick drums and the extensive wah soloing of Duffy. Despite the varying levels of success found on the preceding numbers, the album reaches it's lowest point at the final cut with "Sound and Fury," a song that sounds entirely out of place and concludes this effort at rock bottom. This same hit-and-miss quality is what leads to the impression that "Hidden City" may have been better suited as an EP release instead of a full fledged studio album, especially considering that the album rounds out an otherwise entirely memorable trilogy from The Cult.
Lyrics — 7
Ian Astbury is both entirely capable of forging memorable lyrics, and just as able to throw together some half contemplated breed of babble. We find a little of each over the course of The Cult's "Hidden City," where Astbury's intense, emotional execution remains in top form. Take for example the craftsmanship found on the aforementioned "Dark Energy": "War in the east and your office suite/ Spectacle spirals, twist and unwind/ Tigers of wrath, dark energy/ The horse of instruction, a mystery to me." This a set of lyrics that Astbury delivers prominently and with that distinctive tone that made the earlier Cult classics so standout, however that's also in comparison to the bizarre performance which is found on songs such as "Wildflower" and "Hinterland," not to mention the out-of-key vocals that vividly decorate "Avalanche of Light."
Overall Impression — 6
The Cult deliver a varying performance, notable for having some new instant favorites and a compilation of forgettable compositions, with their tenth studio album "Hidden City." Although the album does have it's fair share of strong numbers and is perhaps most notable for being the most expansive installment from The Cult in some time, it isn't the complete listening experience one would want to have.