Review: Death Cult – Electric Brixton, London

The Cult are one of the UK’s most underrated bands. For decades, they have delivered some of the best rock music that stretches from goth rock to glam metal and have also been very mysterious and ominous whilst they do it – vocalist Ian Astbury’s appreciation for Shaman culture lends a hand to their curious nature. Tonight, Ian Astbury, Billy Duffy, John Tempesta, and Charlie Jones take the stage for a second night at the Electric Brixton. Except it’s not The Cult who are playing here. Tonight, Death Cult are playing – performing some of their earliest pieces of work from as far back as 1981, on what is one of their most anticipated tours in the band’s extensive history.

The 8323 Tour is a tour of celebration – a powerful showcase that reflects back on the band’s origins, shining a light on the early tracks that helped build the foundations for the band that they have become today. 40 years seems like a long time, but for the sold-out crowd who are standing in the venue, some people will feel that the past 40 years have flown by, as they get to hear the tracks they grew up on live again – some even played live for the first time since the 1980s!! Joining the goth rock icons as the support acts on this momentous tour are Lili Refrain and The Silence; 2 acts that are both sonically and musically different, yet still manage to fit the bill perfectly.

First up are The Silence, a self-proclaimed “DIY Post-Punk” band from London. Dressed entirely in all black from head to toe, the quartet delivered a strong set of songs drenched in goth rock that sounded as if they were influenced by bands such as The Cure, Joy Division, and even The Cult themselves, as well as a hint of modern day indie acts such as Editors and White Lies. For just 20 minutes (which, in my honest opinion, deserved to be much, much longer) the band played through 6 of their songs to the hall, each one bringing forth a great reaction from the many eyes looking their way. Speaking of eyes, it was hard diverting mine anywhere else than on their drummer James – his presence, as well as his technical ability, were outstanding and thoroughly enjoyable to watch. Even though the group has only been active for a year, it seems that it can only be onward and upward for them now.

Lili Refrain takes the stage next, a one-woman band that certainly succeeded in captivating the crowd right from the get-go. She walks onstage and immediately starts recording a loop of various calming chimes and blissful bells before the sudden and pulsating sound of a tom-tom drum blasts its way thunderously through the venue. The soundscapes latch onto the crowd and, looking around, it seems to have entranced everyone under her spell, watching her every move. Her voice is incredibly powerful and intricate, one that is very reminiscent of singers such as Kate Bush, PJ Harvey, and Björk – perhaps a culmination of all 3 at once. It’s a very entertaining set – one where it was hard to take your eyes off, as you would constantly watch to see what Lili would do next, or what she would add to the mix next, adding more elements to an already massive and ethereal sound. The response that the Brixton crowd gave her as she thanked everyone and left the stage was enthusiastic and long-lasting, and I’m sure many people here will be putting her on their “ones to watch” lists. I know I already have!

When it came time for Death Cult to take the stage, the lights went down, covering the stage in darkness. Within the dark, you could just make out a lone figure circling the area with burning sage – a ritual used by the band in order to bless the stage. The beautiful smell soon flooded the venue, uplifting the smell of stale beer for the entire performance. And just like that, the band came on and went straight into 83rd Dream, taken from their debut album Dreamtime, to a loving response from the audience. Billy Duffy’s signature Gretsch G7593T White Falcon guitar was shining brightly as he played each riff to perfection, looking suave and 100% in control as he did so. There are little mosh pits in the main standing area during tracks like Brothers Grimm and Ghost Dance, and generally, it seems that everybody in the Electric Brixton is moving/dancing/bopping along in their own way.

Ian doesn’t say much in between each song, but when he does, it’s short and brief and gets a big reaction from the crowd, worshipping his every move. “Are you fucking feeling this?” he asks the crowd to a deafening response. At one point midway into the show, bassist Charlie Jones walks offstage, to the confusion of some fans, before Ian proclaims “You’re gonna like this one”, as another bassist walks onstage to take Charlie’s place. When the spotlight eventually hits his face, everybody recognises him as Jamie Stewart, the original Death Cult bassist, as he plays alongside the band on Ressurection Joe and Horse Nation, both of which he was the original bassist. “Oh, shit!! There’s more!” exclaims Astbury as the band lead into Go West (Crazy Spinning Circles) which sounded almost identical to the actual record from 1984!

The last track in their main set is none other than fan favourite Rain, which gets a massive reaction from everybody in attendance. The band swiftly leaves the stage moments after the song’s final chords ring out, leaving the venue in darkness once again – but not for long, as mere minutes later they return to perform a perfect rendition of Moya, a Southern Death Cult track, to the surprise of many. But the biggest moment of the night arrived shortly afterward, as Billy Duffy’s iconic guitar riff from She Sells Sanctuary rang out across the room, bringing forth a collective scream from everybody. Some people held their partners close as the song played on, a nice affectionate touch to the track’s subject matter of finding solitude in your lover’s arms. As the song ended and the applause rang out, Ian smiled over at Billy and they left the stage for good. And so, too, do the audience, stepping foot into the cold Brixton night with gigantic smiles on their faces, having witnessed a piece of Cult history right in front of their eyes. Even if this is the last time that Death Cult plays live, it’s certainly not the last time The Cult plays live.

Review – Joe Richardson

Black and white images – Mick Peek

Colour image – Tim Cadiente

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