Death Cult in 2023: Celebrating 40 Years of Musical Mastery // Live Review // The Telegraph Building // Belfast
In the world of rock and roll, very few bands manage to stand the test of time. However, one iconic group, originally known as Death Cult, has defied the odds, evolving and thriving for four incredible decades. As they celebrate their 40th anniversary in 2023, a rollercoaster of a journey and their impact on the music scene, what makes Death Cult a true live entity?
Death Cult, now widely recognized as simply “The Cult,” was formed in 1983 by frontman Ian Astbury and guitarist Billy Duffy. Originally known as Death Cult, they started as a post-punk band before evolving into a hard-hitting, rock ‘n’ roll sensation. The band’s name underwent a few changes over the years, and they’ve gone by The Southern Death Cult and eventually The Cult. Belfast 2023 sees the start of their Ireland and UK Tour, for the gathered masses here at The Telegraph Building this is an extraordinary occasion. The crowd is eclectic, young and old side by side to worship together, celebrate together and live this experience in the now, 40 Years of majestic sonic storytelling and we get to embrace every second of it this evening.
In support, we have Lili Refrain, a musician, and an artist based in Rome, Italy. Little was known of the support before Lili took to the stage, it’s how I like to absorb a new artist or band, in the flesh, with no preconceptions and totally open to whatever gets thrown at me but I have to say this is not what I expected. Like a lot of genres now we are seeing a real influx of traditional artists shining through, bands like The HU, a Mongolian Throat singing metal band, we are seeing the most extreme examples of what defines a band, a solo artist in mainstream gigs and live performances, but for sure today you have to be ready for anything. Lili was a breath of fresh air, as she kicked off her set there was that momentary pause as people stopped to take it all in, what is this? Where is this going to go, what we got was a glorious ambient explosion that really, nobody was prepared for. As the set went on you could see across the room a real appreciation for what Lili was doing, her skills looping drum patterns, Vocals and guitar work allowed for these huge ambient sounds to build and build into a crescendo, her vocals altering from something akin to chanting to almost operatic in range at times and everything in between. A truly unique sound, a unique artist and one that will no doubt be the topic of conversation at every Death Cult gig along this run.
The Belfast crowd show their appreciation as Lili’s set comes to a close, and by now the masses have indeed gathered and the spaces and getting smaller as the crowd clambers forward toward the stage inch by inch, I get my beautiful ass to the back to grab a spot in which to see above the sea of heads as the stage gets prepped for the arrival of tonight’s special guests.
A fiercely independent spirit marked this band’s early years, and their sound was a potent blend of rock, punk, and alternative music. Their self-titled debut album “Dreamtime” in 1984 and “Love” in 1985 showcased their raw, energetic style. These early works laid the foundation for their distinctive sound, fusing the power of rock with Astbury’s charismatic vocal style. One of the defining moments in The Cult’s career came with their 1987 album “Electric.” It significantly departed from their previous work, featuring a harder and more aggressive sound. The question is, with a four-decade back catalogue, which version of The Cult/Death Cult will the thirsty Belfast crowd see tonight? For many, the original and best version, the early days celebrated with tracks like ‘Go West’ ,’ Resurrection Joe’ and ‘She Sells Sanctuary’, those songs so steeped in Cult history and the soundtrack to so many people’s youths who are here tonight, this is what this is all about. It puts you right back to where you first heard these gems, the hairs standing on the back of your neck as you absorb these glorious tunes for the very first time, there is only one first time after all. Tonight though in Belfast sharing this soundtrack live with friends who you grew up with, to this very soundtrack.
Does it get any better? Death Cult’s commitment to live performances has been a cornerstone of their success. Their concerts are legendary for their energy and emotional depth, capturing the essence of their music. The band’s stage presence, coupled with their ever-evolving sound, has kept them relevant and captivating audiences for four decades. The band’s journey from Death Cult to The Cult, from post-punk to hard rock, has been a remarkable one. As they celebrate their 40th anniversary in 2023, their music continues to inspire and influence generations of music enthusiasts. With their unwavering commitment to live performances and their dynamic, ever-evolving sound, They stand as a testament to the enduring power of rock and roll. Here’s to 40 years of music that has rocked our souls and continues to do so with every electrifying performance.
For all those hardcore dedicated fans, a box was ticked this evening, for the younger fresh faces in the crowd, a musical education was delivered the only way this band knows how, with sheer class. Dublin is up next before the lads move onto the mainland, hearts and minds will be laid to waste so be prepared.
Southern Death Cult formed in 1981, releasing their sole, self-titled album posthumously in 1983. That same year, Death Cult formed, with Astbury joining forces with Duffy for a musical partnership that has endured for 40-plus years. The band released two 12-inches that same year, one being the Death Cult EP, which were subsequently combined and released as a CD. Death Cult is a vital transmission from the generation of Shamanic post-punk gothic futurists.
Death Cult became The Cult in 1984. Releasing Dreamtime that same year and going on to experience a career that has seen the release of 11 full-length albums, as well as numerous international and U.S. gold and platinum certifications.