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Rhythm & Views

The Cult

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Twenty years ago, producer Rick Rubin thrust an obscure British psychedelic alt-rock band by the name of The Cult into the mainstream with Electric, still the best AC/DC record that AC/DC never recorded.

From there, singer Ian Astbury and guitarist Billy Duffy sold their souls piecemeal to the glam-metal devil, selling millions of records and creating some of the best music of that butt-rockin' genre: "Love Removal Machine" and "Fire Woman" alone guarantee that the Cult will live forever inside the Internet jukeboxes of blue-collar America.

Despite '90s grunge nearly killing their career, Astbury and Duffy return for the first time since 2001's underrated Beyond Good and Evil. The result, Born Into This, is the best Cult album since 1989's Sonic Temple.

Taking up where Good and Evil left off, Duffy dips into his well of arena-rock riffs to fashion thundering gems like "I Assassin" and "Sound of Destruction." This time, though, the results are more appropriately jagged than anything the band ever accomplished with slick default producer Bob Rock (Metallica). When Astbury boasts of a "fist full of ice" and "head full of speed," you can almost believe it given the convincing din surrounding his shamanistic vocals. Ballads "Holy Mountain" and "Tiger in the Sun," meanwhile, are grandiose enough and so hugely melodic that you can forgive the latter's nebulous protest lyrics: "the devil rides / yeah, he's not our kind / in this never ending war."

While the Cult's crossover appeal evaporated long ago, the band's brand of metal possesses enough curveballs to satisfy fans of well-crafted rock.

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