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THE CULT is back. Rejoice, brothers and sisters.
There is little I can say about this album without gushing uncontrollably. The Cult is one of my favorite bands (the tattoo on my right arm - "Wolf Child" - is taken directly from a song off 1986's Electric, "Wildflower," but of course you knew that, didn't you?), have been for some time, so imagine my excitement when I heard they had reunited (after a six-year hiatus) to record their "comeback album," BEYOND GOOD AND EVIL.
Let's go back a bit before I talk about BEYOND GOOD AND EVIL, though . . . .
I remember THE CULT's last album (a self-titled release from late '94) came out the day I started my current job. I couldn't wait to get out of work to pick up the new Cult CD. I could barely focus on my work duties; I was so damn excited.
My God, what a disappointment when I bought my copy, finally tore it open, and popped it in the stereo.
I was shattered. Completely. THE CULT were trying to sound like PEARL JAM and THE STONE TEMPLE PILOTS. They sang odes to Kurt Cobain, played very bland, generic alterna-crap that went nowhere. Sure, the Cult had always been loosely classified as an "alternative" (in the truest sense of the word) band . . . but this?
This was depressing.
This was horrendous.
Needless to say, that self-titled album (with its droll yet still somehow creepy cover featuring a glaring black ram, an image later plagiarized by nu-metal upstarts Slipknot for their Iowa album) did not rock.
Soon after, THE CULT split up. I remember thinking that was a good thing; if this was the kind of music they had to offer. Granted, that album has grown on me since, and several tracks from THE CULT I can now enjoy (to some extent), but I still would not recommend that album to anyone. Especially to fans of the same "tattooed seventies-boogie revivalists" (to coin a killer phrase from Chuck Eddy) who recorded such hard rockin' albums as Electric and Sonic Temple. And Ceremony, for that matter - I know I'm in the minority, but I loved that album as well ("Wild-Hearted Son" is one of the coolest songs ever).
Fast-forward to mid-2001. News of THE CULT's return begins to buzz about. Rumors of a new album featuring all of the original members (okay, so that's not entirely true - but who really gives a shit about the bassist and drummer, long as singer/rock-god Ian Astbury and guitarist Billy Duffy show up for the ride?) start to circulate on the Internet, on various newsgroups and metal web pages and rarely updated Cult fan-sites.
The rumors, when all was said and done, were true. THE CULT is back.
To make a helluva long story as short as possible, the new album was eventually released, and THE CULT have redeemed themselves. I was anything but disappointed with THE CULT's comeback album. I was blown away, in fact.
This is rock n' roll, baby.
Standout tracks on BEYOND GOOD AND EVIL include . . . well, almost all of them. But I'm trying not to gush. So here's a quick run-down on several of my favorites.
First of all, there's Track #3, "Rise."
Wow. It's hard to put into words how hard this song rocks. "Rise" is indisputably the anthem for THE CULT's triumphant return. In fact, it could quite possibly be one of THE CULT's greatest tunes ever. You may have heard "Rise" on the radio, as it received decent airplay upon Beyond Good and Evil's initial release (not as much as that old Cult stand-by "Fire Woman," of course, but still an impressive amount of attention for a band that never got the recognition they deserved as a damn solid rock n' roll band). The kick-off riff in this song is heavier than anything Metallica's done in the last four or five years (yes, I know that ain't saying a helluva lot), but contrasting nicely with that is a sexy lead which, to my ears, is a perfect 21st-century update on that oh-so-memorable riff in THE CULT's classic post-punk dance-rock hit "She Sells Sanctuary."
"American Gothic" is another very strong track off BEYOND GOOD AND EVIL. This one starts off sounding a lot heavier than it ultimately turns out to be, but that's not a bad thing. It's a mid-groove rocker with a solid, bass-heavy foundation that'll keep you tapping your foot whether the song itself makes sense to you or not. Gotta love that title. I can't help but wonder - what the hell is Ian singing about ("Black star, white light!" And then something that sounds suspiciously like "Enter cancer cells from the death machine?" WTF?)? He's a strange one, all right.
"Ashes and Ghosts" is another great tune, perhaps my favorite alongside "Rise." "Ashes and Ghosts" is one of THE CULT's darkest song's ever - a nod back to the days when they were almost but not quite goth - and the chorus to this song is one of the coolest things I have ever heard, featuring a very melancholy, somewhat creepy keyboard that gives me chills every time I hear it. Fantastic. "Ashes and Ghosts" is one of those kick-ass tunes you wish was twice as long.
I've rambled on long enough.
This is a fantastic album.
THE CULT are one of a kind, no doubt about that, whether they're proving that their brand of blues-based, sex-soaked rock n' roll unfortunately hit the scene about ten years too late, or whether Ian's apin' Jim Morrison again, pushing his out-dated hippie logic and 60's-beat-poetry-set-to-heavy-metal-music on a world that just plain don't give a shit . . . THE CULT are nothing if not unique, in the end.
If you've ever been into this band's music, even the slightest bit, pick up BEYOND GOOD AND EVIL.
And be glad, like myself, that Ian and Co. came to their senses, realized that they are not, never were, and never will be PEARL JAM.
BEYOND GOOD AND EVIL gets 4 perplexed skulls from me (would've been five if they'd left room on the album for "Painted On My Heart," from the soundtrack to that Nicholas Cage flick Gone In 60 Seconds - God, I love that song).
Shake it, don't break it, baby. Dig?
This review copyright 2002 E.C.McMullen Jr.
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