“The Cult’s Under The Midnight Sun” sounds like a mystic statement, evoking images of a 70s commune, hands clasped together, twirling in a circular formation under a halo of ethereal light.
And that description is not too far off from the feeling and inspiration behind rock band The Cult — headed by vocalist Ian Astbury and guitarist Billy Duffy — with their 11th studio album, Under The Midnight Sun.
It has been six years since the group’s last full-length album was released. Astbury and Duffy have been spending a lot of that time conjuring up Under The Midnight Sun’s hypnotic and colorful statement to the world.
Astbury is more contemplative of the present moment in this newest release, with modern influences mixing with that classic, love-and-psilocybin-infused electric sound the band is known for.
The frontman found inspiration for the album from reminiscing on a moment of “midnight sun” — the summer stretch where the sun doesn’t go down north of the Arctic Circle — at a Finland music festival in the 80s. The sun, which still lingered in the sky even at 3 a.m., illuminated moments of connection between festival goers.
Those surreal moments of beauty, the natural, vibrational frequencies shared between living beings, and the strange, complicated, and fearful present we find ourselves in all find expression in the album.
“There’s music everywhere,” Astbury said. “There’s a song in nature, if you listen. We’re all affected by frequencies. The real thing that keeps us together is the frequency, the music, the place where it connects. We’re united, and whether we like it or not, we’re traveling through this together.”
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For The Cult’s show at The Arlington Theatre on Saturday, November 19, Astbury said he hopes to foster a communal experience; to share the album’s vision, vulnerability, and “magical, metaphysical frequencies,” including Duffy’s dynamic and dramatic guitar riffs.
“I don’t like the term audience, I don’t like the word sound,” Astbury explained. “Because it’s really about community. We commune together for a celebration, and it can be uplifting and transcendent and, honestly, that’s what got me through my life: music and vibration at the quantum level, particles moving through space.”
The Cult was formed in 1983, and since then, Astbury and Duffy have become more musically intuitive, and regenerative, finding ways to pick themselves up and filter any feelings of struggle and fear through their music. Morality, inward contemplation, social and political divisiveness, and the path forward from the present are reflected in “Mirror,” the album’s lead track. The opening line, “Forget what you know,” is something Astbury said he reminds himself of every day, because the past “just gets in the way,” adding that, “not everything has to have ketchup on it.”
The “community” packed into The Arlington Theater on November 19 should expect the unexpected, and like the lyric says, forget what they know. “It’s highly charged, highly melodic, highly rhythmic, and dark in places,” Astbury said about their stage presence. “Our set is a journey; we don’t do concerts, we don’t do gigs, we create ritual space.”
Preparations for a meditative, communal, and vibrational experience are encouraged.