Death Cult @ Rock City, Nottingham, UK, November 13, 2023 | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Saturday, December 9th, 2023  

Death Cult

Death Cult, The Cult, Lili Refrain

Death Cult @ Rock City, Nottingham, UK, November 13, 2023,

Nov 19, 2023 Photography by Andy Von Pip Web Exclusive
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​Having been at the forefront of guitar music for four decades, The Cult have quite rightly earned their stripes as one of the most influential bands to emerge from the post-punk era and beyond. Their career trajectory has been one of continuous evolution, whether it be the embryonic beginnings of Southern Death Cult or the classic rock stylings of last year’s eleventh and most recent long player Under The Midnight Sun. The Cult have always made music for themselves without ever conforming to any passing trend or fad, which probably also accounts for their longevity. Tonight’s “Sold Out” signs proving testament to that. However, baring all of the above in mind, it’s perhaps quite fitting that they’ve chosen to celebrate their fortieth anniversary revisiting some of the earliest songs from what’s become an extensive back catalogue.

Death Cult
Death Cult

Before they take the stage, Italian experimental artist Lili Refrain delivered a set that veered between transient ambience and frenetic industrial rock. Perched somewhere between the stylings of Diamanda Galas, Dead Can Dance and Ofra Haza, Lili Refrain’s music can be described as visceral and intense yet also soothing in parts. One piece of music lasts approximately twenty minutes which actually proves compelling, both from a listening and visual point of view. Nevertheless, the rapturous applause at the end then subsequent queues around her merch table tells its own story. Although not exactly a newcomer in the strictest sense - Refrain has been releasing music since 2007 - this tour will almost certainly expose her music to a new audience so expect to hear more in the not too distant future.

Lili Refrain
Lili Refrain

Back to the headliners, opting to revisit Death Cult undoubtedly piqued interest. Not least because many of the songs in tonight’s set have rarely been performed live since those early days. It was also the point where Ian Astbury and Billy Duffy - arguably one of the greatest guitarists of his generation - first locked horns. Even though they only kept that moniker for nine months, the self-titled EP and single (“God’s Zoo”) they released back in 1983 have both attained legendary status in progressive punk circles. So it’s no surprise the likes of “Brothers Grimm” and “Ghost Dance” are received like old school friends that haven’t seen each other since those classroom days. While the former’s tribal beats and spaghetti western guitars were aspects that set The (Death) Cult out from all of their post=punk contemporaries, the latter could be one of the very first compositions for a genre that would later come to be known as “goth”.

Rewinding the clock back to more innocent times, its mesmerising to watch Astbury get caught up in the moment. Shaking his tambourine and shuffling like a snake, every note delivered with perfect pitch. “Christians” and the aforementioned “God’s Zoo” from the same era are despatched with similar aplomb, while “Horse Nation” - a song that started life with Death Cult and has survived several incarnations to still be a regular feature in the set even today - sounds as fresh and invigorating as it did on the Death Cult EP some forty years ago.

Death Cult
Death Cult

While The Cult’s 1984 debut Dreamtime is often overlooked in favour of the following year’s Love which heralded their commercial breakthrough, it finally receives the attention it deserves this evening. Every song hitting the spot, whether it be cathartic opener “83rd Dream”, sombre “Flower In The Desert” or buoyant “Spiritwalker”, another song that can still bring the house down nearly four decades on from when it was first released. Meanwhile, stand alone single “Resurrection Joe” - said to be a major influence on The Stone Roses - still packs a brutal punch, taking the spirit of goth onto clubland dancefloors. Love does get touched upon, albeit briefly in the shape of “Hollow Man” and its two big singles, “Rain” and “She Sells Sanctuary” which close the main set and encore respectively, sandwiching an impeccable “Moya” - the debut release by Southern Death Cult and 45 that started it all back in 1982.

By the end, the whole room is beaming Cheshire Cat smiles, be it from the band members on stage or the audience off it. Tonight felt like a history lesson delivered in the most elegant fashion, and while it would be churlish to expect these songs to feature regularly in The Cult’s set going forwards, one hopes this won’t be the last time they’re aired either.

Death Cult
Death Cult

Simply sensational!


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