While walking the grounds of the Provinssirock Festival, Ian Astbury found himself taking in the surreal experience of the 'midnight sun' during the summer months when the sun doesn't set north of the Arctic Circle. Astbury recalls, "It's three in the morning, the sun's up, and there are all these beautiful people in this halcyon moment...it was an incredible moment".
While reviewing footage of the band's performance at the aforementioned festival, Astbury found new mysticism and permeated it into The Cult's eleventh studio album, Under The Midnight Sun. This relatively short but effective offering packs a punch synonymous with the legendary group.
The album opens with "Mirror", which provides an immediate introduction to the heavy sound prominent throughout. Driving bass lines and drum fills are interspersed with Billy Duffy's catchy guitar riffs.
"A Cut Inside" is an early high point of the album, showcasing Duffy's classic sound of crunching rhythms mixed with atmospheric melodies. Lyrically there's an air of suspicion for the surroundings, "No heathens in heaven, no sweet surrender" from the chorus's opening lines that seem to make more impact each time you hear it. "Vendetta X" sees the bass lines of Charlie Jones take centre stage, with his riffs prominent through the verses. Astbury's haunting cries of "Vendetta", followed by vocal harmonisations, take the song to ethereal heights.
"Give Me Mercy" provides one of the more contemplative lyrical outings on the album. Lines such as "I wish it were different, it all ends the same" and "I don't know which way to turn" emanate a feeling of helplessness through the verses, yet the chorus takes an uplifting tone reassuring, "Give me mercy, love will find you". Another catchy Duffy guitar riff is driven along by a memorable drum beat that is constant throughout the verses.
"Outer Heaven" turns the album onto a different path with a moving string effect throughout the intro before dark-sounding, heavy bass lines take over during the opening verse that contains the effective line, "the sirens call, a lost innocence." The song's tempo increases as it progresses, leading it to finish with a positive, uplifting tone. Astbury is again inspiring with lines such as, "embrace the outer heavens".
"Knife Through Butterfly Heart" opens with a gentle bass riff that is complimented by the strings of an acoustic guitar, with keys introduced through the first verse giving the song a delicate beginning. The chorus sees electric guitar introduced to provide a heavier feel to the longest song on the album, at over six minutes. "Impermanence" offers yet more melodic guitar licks from Duffy but not too many to distract you from Astbury's eerie lyrics such as, "Ghost ships on fire".
The title track, "Under The Midnight Sun", closes the album on a grand note, a cinematic number which, on first listen, could easily be mistaken for a James Bond theme song. Flamboyant guitar licks back Astbury's astute vocal performance. The closing lines of the album prove apt, "all will fade in time."
Despite being only eight songs long, Under The Midnight Sun by no means feels incomplete; the eight songs provide enough to leave any fan satisfied; however, there is a feeling there could've been more. Also, there are times when Astbury's vocals seem left hidden towards the back of the mix, and they deserve to be more prominent. However, it doesn't detract too much from what is a solid rock album. It is perhaps best summed up by the old quote, "it's always better to leave the audience wanting more", and from this offering, the audience will certainly want more.