Return To The Santuary
After the Cult’s 2007 return to form, Born Into This, they’ve officially doubled down with Choice of Weapon, an unambiguous foray into the tried and true. Guitarist Billy Duffy still plugs away with his trademarked blend of chest-thumping chords and spindly solo lines, while lead singer Ian Astbury shows a renewed zeal as the macho-spiritual pontiff of the Church of Jim Morrison. Have we heard this before? Yes! But that’s exactly the point: Their latest encyclical contains no new doctrine, no change of dogma, and no ecumenical move toward “updating their sound.” This is a souled-out album for the stone-cold believers—a true-faith commitment to the orthodoxy of the unorthodox.
An especially illumined cut is “The Wolf.” Swaggering with a lofty verse that tromps like a baroqued-out version of Zepp’s “Out on the Tiles,” its stampeding chorus and stick-to-your-ribs gumption are the equivalent of rock ‘n’ roll comfort food. Ian lays into his noble savage delivery with braced-up vigor. “Don’t need to see the Bible liars/Caught in the jaws and the flame,” he yells like some wizened rock ‘n’ roll Geronimo. “I’ve been christened by the trials/These wicked chains that hold my name.” Looks like the paleface with a chieftain’s heart has finally earned his scars and stripes.
The tomahawking continues with “Amnesia,” a fiery recounting of all the rain dancing, teepees, and turquoise lost to Custer’s shit-kicking ilk. The track’s roving riff recalls Iggy and the Stooges’ “T.V. Eye,” only floated over an “it’s time to rock” drum line. After the mustached ones have claimed all the red man’s land and women, the Cult’s singer is left only to wail like a coyote, “Save what you learned/Suspicious soul to return!” Wise words, He Who Rocks My Socks.
Some sour notes are hit here and there with “Lucifer” and “Elemental Light,” especially. The latter bloats with a kind of lofty, saccharine chorus and arabesque guitar line, sounding a skosh too much like Bono and company’s “Mysterious Ways”—or any “spiritual but not religious” U2 B-side, for that matter. “Lucifer,” on the other hand, seems to test us on whether just name-dropping the Fallen One is sufficient to prick one’s ears. A little more brimstone heft to the lyrics and the damned thing might’ve worked.
All told, Choice of Weapon is a record not for fresh entrants or the casual laity, but the true believers of the Cult’s shadowy inner sanctum. If you’re a longstanding practitioner of the faith, this spell is for you.