I've been an obsessed hard rock/heavy metal fan and collector since the early 1980s. If it's got a good guitar riff and attitude, I'm in.
The Cult, "Choice of Weapon"
(Cooking Vinyl, 2012)
The Cult were one of my favorite bands in the late '80s and early '90s. However, I lost track of them when they went on an extended hiatus after 2001's woefully-underrated Beyond Good and Evil album.
My interest in the Gothic hard rockers was re-kindled in December 2019 when I saw them in concert in New Jersey, celebrating the 30th anniversary of their now-classic Sonic Temple album by playing the bulk of the disc live. It was an excellent gig that wiped away the bad memory of an awful live Cult performance that I'd witnessed in 1989, when they opened for Metallica, and it also inspired me to start filling the holes in my Cult CD collection.
The band's ninth album, Choice of Weapon, was released in 2012 on the venerable alternative rock label Cooking Vinyl, which has also been home to Marilyn Manson, Counting Crows, the Orb, Gary Numan, and many others. Its ten tracks offer a wide range of sounds that are bound to appeal to all areas of Cult-ology, whether your favorite Cult era is the early, dreamy Goth pop of Dreamtime or Love, the hard rockin' Electric or Sonic Temple period, or the psychedelic experimental weirdness of '94's self titled disc.
"Honey From a Knife"
The track selection on Choice of Weapon is a pretty even split between straight up hard rock/metal tracks and splashy, moody, slower pieces, which reflects both sides of the band's personality. The album kicks off with the hard driving "Honey From a Knife," which snares listeners immediately with its irresistible chorus of "We got the drugs, we got the drugs, drugs can heal!" Billy Duffy's burly guitar work and Ian Astbury's howling vocals are both obviously in fine shape, so we're off to a great start. The moody "Elemental Light" is a slow burner that could have come off Beyond Good and Evil (2001), and "The Wolf" is pure, ass kickin' Electric-era overdrive. The sweeping, cinematic ballad "Life > Death" finds Astbury emoting for all he's worth over a set of soaring Duffy guitar licks, leading into the four-on-the-floor combo of "For The Animals" and "Amnesia," which bring us back into the fire-and-brimstone territory of Sonic Temple.
The plaintive strings and piano of "Wilderness Now" lead into Astbury's finest vocal performance of the album, and its mantra "death walks right beside me, light shines right behind me" hearkens back to the Love era. "Lucifer" kicks off with some sinister, pulsating synth noodling before slamming on the gas pedal and unleashing some of Duffy's nastiest, most grinding guitar work of the entire record. The basic blues-rocker "A Pale Horse" is straight out of the Rick Rubin Electric playbook and the album ends on a properly ominous note with the sweeping Doors-gone-Metal vibe of "This Night In The City Forever," with Astbury channeling his inner Jim Morrison with even more force than usual.
"For The Animals"
The Bonus Cuts
In an apparent attempt to drive die-hard collectors insane, the standard CD edition of Choice of Weapon features ten tracks, but there's also a "Deluxe Edition" version of the album available with an additional four bonus cuts. The extra tracks were pulled from two bite-sized digital-only EPs, dubbed "Capsules," which the band released in 2009 and 2010.
The first of the four extras, "Every Man and Woman Is A Star," is a pretty cool throwback to '90s techno-flavored rock, with danceable rhythms, fuzzed out guitar tones and spacey, processed vocal effects. "Embers," in spite of its title, is a slow drone that never quite catches fire, but things pick up again on the excellent "Until The Light Takes Us" before closing with the bass-heavy rocker "Siberia."
All in all these four extra tracks are nice to have, but none of them would be a reason to hold out for the Deluxe Edition CD. If all you can find is the "standard" album version, you're still pretty good to go (and you can always YouTube-to-MP3 the extra songs anyway...).
"Every Man and Woman Is a Star"
Summing It Up
Choice of Weapon has been a regular player for me since I first got it a few weeks ago and it seems like it'll be staying in my rotation for some time to come. Now I just need to pick up its follow-up album, 2016's Hidden City, and I'll be all caught up on the Cult albums I missed.
At that live show I attended last December, Ian told the audience that the band was working on new Cult music for 2020. If the new material is as strong as Choice of Weapon, I'll definitely be the first in line for the new album. Bring it on, guys!
© 2020 Keith Abt