Choice Of Weapon is studio album number nine for The Cult, a band that became so disenchanted with the music industry over the past decade that they decided not to release any more music as conventional albums, a format that lead singer Ian Astbury referred to as "dead". Much of that attitude was fostered by contentious relationships with their last two labels. 2010 saw the release of two separate "capsules", as the band called them, which consisted of content including two new tracks each, live recordings, and videos on various media platforms. Frankly, the concept and the four new songs didn't impress me much (they're available as bonus tracks on Choice Of Weapon's deluxe edition). The group eventually bowed to pressure from fans and prospective labels clamouring for new music to be released in proper album form.
Choice Of Weapon disappointingly plays it too safe, delivering all the hallmarks of The Cult's sound, including guitarist Billy Duffy's droning guitar style and wah-wah solos, lots of tambourine, and Astbury's befuddling lyrics rooted in shamanism and Eastern religions, but coming up short with memorable material. "The Wolf", "Amnesia", "Elemental Light", and "Honey From A Knife" all sound like Cult-101 and failed to inspire much passion from me. They're not awful, mind you, they just left me feeling rather indifferent and sounded overly interchangeable with some of the band's past work. Only one track of the album's ten qualifies as what I would call outstanding - the brawny "For The Animals" (and even that song's tail end breakdown section echoes the same type of section from "Fire Woman" a little too closely). The track gets a small, yet welcome new wrinkle added to the band's sound with a simple, repetitive piano part over some of the verses and choruses. The Cult have used piano on their slower material in the past, but I don't recall them using it on their heavier songs before (it shows up on the also-heavy "Honey From A Knife"). The dark "Lucifer" starts off promisingly, but is undercut by shaky verse and chorus sections...which doesn't leave a whole lot else in the song, does it? The bluesy "A Pale Horse" is fairly decent and contains some interesting elements, including a start/stop structure. The Cult is usually reliable for at least one solid epic-sounding ballad per album and "Life > Death" just manages (in terms of the "solid", I mean) to fill that spot, while the other slower songs, "Wilderness Now" and the psychedelia-indulging "This Night In The City Forever" can best be characterized as bland.
My overall impression of Choice Of Weapon is amazingly similar to how I felt about The Cult's last full-length album, 2007's Born Into This. It was also highlighted by one lone killer track ("Sound Of Destruction") and surrounded by a lot of average-to-poor material. Whereas many veteran bands have proven their best creative days are well behind them, The Cult still show flashes of their old songwriting brilliance and it doesn't feel like they're that far removed, time-wise, from the magnificent beginning-to-end results generated on their underrated 2001 reunion album, Beyond Good And Evil.
For a band so keen to shake up the status quo as far as how the music industry game is played, Choice Of Weapon feels like an awfully pedestrian effort. I will give them props for that badass album cover, though, which features Astbury underneath all those feathers, pelts, and horns.