REVIEW: The Cult – Beyond Good and Evil (Australian bonus track)

Second of a CULT double shot!  Click here for 1994’s The Cult.

THE CULT – Beyond Good and Evil (2001 Atlantic)

When The Cult finally reunited, the rock world rejoiced.  It felt like a long time, in that post-grunge wasteland, since the world had been blessed with any new Cult music.  Not only had they reunited (with their former drummer Matt Sorum, also formerly of Guns N’ Roses) but they had also reunited with producer Bob Rock, for the third time.   Much like his last outing with the band (1994’s The Cult), this Cult album sounds like none before it.  This time, The Cult have gone full-bore ground-shaking heavy metal.  The template was a song the old band were working on before they split “In the Clouds”, from 1996’s High Octane Cult.  The resemblance is uncanny.

BEYOND THE CULT_0003“War (The Process)” invites you to the stage.  Its weight is astounding; Duffy’s guitars crushing while Sorum attacks his kit as he always has.  Duffy’s guitars have acquired a much heavier metallic tone.  Bob Rock applies them in layers, which has always worked well for The Cult.  When “The Saint” enters, your head could be blown from your shoulders.  This is The Cult at their heaviest, but Billy’s melodic sensibilities are intact, and his guitars always sound like Billy Duffy.  Ian, of course, sounds like Ian, howling at the ghosts.

The single from this album was “Rise”, which is no less brutal than the first two tracks.  Its stuttering de-tuned riff recalls Kyuss or Queens of the Stone Age. Song after song, the album crushes.  “Take the Power” is a rallying crying over a noisy Duffy arrangement.  This time, the layers of guitars form this wall of awesome that threatens to fall on you at any moment.  Astbury is delivering a lot more melody with his lead vocals than he did on The Cult.

BEYOND THE CULT_0005“Breathe” offers a respite, but it’s only brief.  It soon turns into a mid-tempo groove rocker, but a forgettable one.  “Nico” is a highlight, an “Edie”-esque beauty.  It would have been my choice for a single.  Somebody should really start asking me.

No sooner have you had a chance to relax before “American Gothic” smashes through the wall.  This is one of the heaviest Cult songs to date.  Cult bassist Chris Wyse (back in the band today) has a solid groove but is overwhelmed by the sheer weight of the Duffy guitar layers.  “Ashes and Ghosts” too is groove laden and heavy as plutonium.  “Shape the Sky” has a little bit of the old Cult’s prowl, but it’s still pretty heavy like spent nuclear fuel.  Ian has a knack for a cool chorus, and this is one of them.  “Speed of Light” has a bit of that robotic pulse from 1993’s “The Witch” before it descends into a detuned metal riff and chorus.  Then, “True Believers” gives you some breathing room again, although still slammed by electric guitars.  This slow tune is a bit more about the melody than the headache.

BEYOND THE CULT_0004The final song on most editions of Beyond Good and Evil is “My Bridges Burn”.  The Cult bow out on a scorching rocker, blowing the speakers out for those who dare to follow them.   Australia received an additional song, “Libertine”, on which to close.  This song feels like a coda and is powered by an Anthrax-esque stomp.  Top that with a soaring Astbury howl and those patented Duffy guitar melodies and you have a good summation of The Cult 2001.

I think many old-school Cult fans, the kind who think they made a wrong turn on Sonic Temple, would dislike Beyond Good and Evil.  For those of us who don’t mind the Cult when they just fucking rock, I think it’s a brilliant album.  The songs are not designed to be instantly catchy.   They are designed to create a sledgehammer of an album that relentlessly powers its way into your soul.  For me, it worked.  You could listen to it once and say, “Sure, it’s heavy, but there are only a couple memorable songs.”  Keep listening.  Let Beyond Good and Evil pummel you with body blows until all you can do is let it sink in.

4/5 stars

BEYOND THE CULT_0006

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20 comments

  1. Totally agree Mike. When I first heard this it was like getting hit over the head with a sledgehammer. It was a unlike Bob Rock production. It was rough sounding,edgy,dark, a different kind of animal for 2001. That’s the thing with The Cult you never know what your getting until you spin it for the first time! No two records soundalike…except for Cermony trying to duplicate Sonic Temple….kinda

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    1. It’s funny because Ceremony is the only and only Cult album I’m missing. I have everything else, even the Southern Death Cult CD and all the box sets. I do have the three singles from Ceremony (Wild Hearted Son, Heart of Soul, White) so I do have a number of those songs on B-sides and live versions.

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  2. I also completely agree. Shortly after releasing this album, I saw them perform live; opening for Foo Fighters, followed by Incubus, followed by Deftones. The Cult were the dinosaur act—and they knew it—but rather than acting their age, they turned up the volume and pummeled the audience with a blistering set of new and old material alike. Ian lacked range, but he made up for it with attitude—continually referring to himself and the band as “old school, mother fuckers!” They brought more energy than the other three bands combined (and the rest of the bands were great). The Cult is indeed old school, but Beyond Good and Evil simply smashes a lot of the down-tuned metal albums released around the same time period. And it endures. Thirteen years later, Beyond Good and Evil still stands strong.

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    1. Thank you!

      I know some people who saw the Cult around this time, and they said Ian was awesome. He’s definitely a polarizing figure.

      In my review for Capsule 1, I said that Ian’s delivery on the new live version of “Rain” was my favourite. He was barely singing, basically barking. But it sounds so awesome.

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  3. Deke, I agree that Ceremony kind of duplicates Sonic Temple. It’s not a horrible album, it just lacks the urgency and vitality of anything before or since. In many ways, it is to Sonic Temple what Born Into This is to Beyond Good and Evil—a step down.

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  4. I was never a huge fan of The Cult, especially during their commercial heyday, but I’ve come around to their music in recent years. I got this one when it came out but didn’t think much of it after a few listens. I might have unloaded it at some point, but if it’s still in my collection I’ll give it another shot based on your review.

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  5. Great review Mike and completely agree. This album always takes me back to being 17/18 and only just getting into rock and metal! The Cult were one of the first bands I ever saw – at Leeds Fest 2001 – and it was a cracking experience, but for me this is a great record and arguably an underrated one too.

    I did my own feature on ‘Nico’ if you’d like to take a look at it: http://wemustobey.wordpress.com/2012/06/27/the-cult-nico/ – I love that song, I really do.

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      1. I feel really lucky to have seen them then. I was really only just starting out with rock and metal then and rather ashamedly I was more into rap music at that point. But the start of that millennium was definitely a turning point personally and I’ve never forgotten The Cult’s performance that day, it was terrific.

        Thanks for checking out my article, glad you enjoyed it! Hope The Cult swing by your area one day.

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        1. Hah! My very next review is a rap artist. I was actually going to post him today but I had a new release to get up instead.

          SO I assume Sorum was still part of the lineup you saw? That’s the lineup I would have liked to see.

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  6. Dang! Digging about here I’d say this was the best mikeladano read yet more than likely for the fact reckon this record is a cracking record and this review pretty much summed up each track perfectly. One clearly likes a record when every track gets a mention ;)

    However two things disagree with, the first Breathe being forgettable!? While perhaps not quite the head cracking singalong found elsewhere, it IMO, serves its purpose and holds its own. Otherwise count me in agreeing with the rest of the writeup, Beyond Good And Evil is on par with this fans love for Sonic Temple, Bob Rock drawing from the well of that very album and his work with Metallica’s self titled \m/

    Felt their pain when this didn’t sell by the bucket load but think it’s stood well the test of time as someone else commented above, still surpassing anything its like released about that time.

    Oh and the second thing?
    Would personally rate this a 4.5

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    1. You know what? I re-read this review, since you were so kind and left such an awesome comment…and I can’t remember how Breathe goes, at all! So I guess I will have to listen again.

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  7. Great review, Mike. Spot on. This is such an underrated album and my favorite Cult album. To me, this album is like a somewhat heavier version of Sonic Temple. Not that the two sound the same or that they have tried to copy that album, more like this record is like a more natural follow-up to ST than Ceremony was.
    That said, I think Ceremony is awesome and every bit as great as ST. Duplicated? Hmmm, in some ways, maybe, but I’m not sure I agree on that. Ceremony is much darker album than ST.

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    1. Thank you dude! Ceremony is definitely darker. But I do think that Ceremony and ST have more in common sonically than any other two Cult albums. I’m not complaining of course…they all have their time and space. With the Cult I can’t always listen to all their albums.

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