When The Cult were preparing to hit the stage at Coachella in 2014, few were expecting the fury that the band delivered. As the festival goers milled about, packing in the field in front of the stage, Ian Astbury and Billy Duffy were building up to a crescendo, of which, when the smoke cleared, Rolling Stone would hail as “the Messianic moment of Coachella”. Critics have hailed the band as incendiary, ground-breaking, and transcendent, but the band themselves choose to look forward… and in a lot of ways, prefer to be seen as survivors… marginalized and vulgarized, much in the same way their song subjects have been. And it was on the ride home from this performance in the desert that the roots of their tenth album Hidden City began to take root. And it was then that the Astbury realized he was ready to begin putting together the final chapter of a trilogy – one that hadn’t been not, until then, fully realized… one that, with the release of Hidden City in early 2016 would complete a circle that had been forming a long time before… one that, when complete, would encompass their acknowledgement of the global community within a metaphor for our spiritual lives, our intimate interior lives... one that spoke for those with voices who are not heard… those who live in outside of the public eye, within the “Hidden City.”
Hidden City isn’t an album as much as it’s an environment… a world of layers that, when peeled away, you begin to discover the wild spaces that The Cult inhabits. “I find today’s gurus are trying to peddle some cure, product or insight as if it’s a new phenomenon,” Astbury explains. “My place is to respond, not react, to observe, participate and share through words and music. There is no higher authority than the heart.”
It is this intense internalization of concepts and invented realms that builds Hidden City - its framework built of tightly woven stories of experience and visions with underlying themes of redemption and rebirth, and its façade - The Cult’s visceral and textured music.
More specifically, the name “Hidden City” stems from the Spanish phrase “La Ciudad Oculta” which is essentially a ghetto in Buenos Aires, Argentina. There is unfathomable poverty in the hidden city, a town the Argentine government turns a blind eye towards while highlighting the cosmopolitan and European flair of the more proper sections of the city. They “hide” the evidence of the deep social inequalities present in Argentine society. “Hidden city” became the perfect metaphor for revolt of the self and soul, and the framework for Cult’s third record of three in nine years, aptly titled Hidden City.
The closing chapter on the album trilogy the band had built with 2007’s Born Into This (“The Fall”) and 2012’s Choice of Weapon (“Dark Night of the Soul”) preceding it, 2016’s Hidden City (“Rebirth”) features Astbury’s signature baritone and blood-soaked lyrics paired with Duffy’s smouldering, textured guitar tones, creating a musical environment that is fearless and peerless. It is within this archetype that their music takes shape and learns to breathe.
Produced by Bob Rock and written by Ian Astbury and Billy Duffy the team has collaborated on what has turned out to be the brutal and beautiful masterpiece Hidden City.
As you descend into their world, The Cult ask but one thing: Defend the beauty of Hidden City.
Holy White Hounds is an apt name for the quartet’s endearing but feral alt-rock. The moniker also conjures the band’s origins as small town underdogs who are rising to earn national prominence. When pressed on the significance of the handle, lead vocalist and guitarist Brenton Dean states: "We're dirty but we're not unclean. We're mangy, but you'd still let us sleep in your bed.”
For young kids with guitars, prodigious musical gifts, and aspirations of being professional musicians, the distance culturally and opportunity wise between a town like Des Moines, Iowa and New York or Los Angeles can make dreams feels unattainable. But for the proud sons of the Hawkeye State in Holy White Hounds, it’s their dedication to music and the alt-rock quartet’s ultra catchy tuneage that’s bridging the divide. Now, the band announces its debut album, Sparkle Sparkle (Razor & Tie).
“We are a band that comes from the basement who has worked real hard to gradually make our way up the staircase,” says Brenton. In addition to Brenton, on vocals/guitar, Holy White Hounds is comprised of Ambrose Lupercal /bass, James Manson / guitar, and Seth Luloff / drums.
The Holy White Hounds story begins in 2005 with the friendship of founders and primary songwriters Brenton Dean and Ambrose Lupercal. As kids, the two were tight friends who informally played music around town who became buzz-worthy in promise. During this formative stage, Brenton and Ambrose had encountered producer Brandon Darner (Imagine Dragons, Radio Moscow, Envy Corps) and earned his respect, but they didn’t contact him until years later, after they were out of college.
“We were avoiding the pressure of working with him,” admits Brenton. “But when we decided to step up, face being uncomfortable to make a record we were proud of, we contacted him. Once we took it seriously, we realized what we were capable of, and it felt amazing.”
The resulting album, Sparkle Sparkle, coolly conjures The Strokes, Beck, Nirvana, Queens of The Stone Age and The Pixies. Album highlights include the debut single “Switchblade,” “Blind,” “In Your Skin,” “Ghost Arm,” “Oh Mama,” and “Laser Beams.” Switchblade” cuts the difference between Beck’s infectious slacker detachment and Queens Of The Stone Age’s gift for the infectious trapezoidal hook. Here, vocalist/guitarist Brenton Dean sketches out a captivating narrative. “It’s veiled but based on a true story about someone I used to know who was a sweet person, but made one unfortunate mistake and it followed them around forever,” Brenton reveals.
“Oh Mama” and “Laser Beams” manage to be both vitriolic and sensitive. Beneath the coiling hooks of “Oh Mama” is a profound snapshot of male adolescence. It unpacks a friend hearing his mother launch into a men-are-pigs diatribe, and reveals the wounding the boy feels hearing such negativity. “Laser Beams” is aimed at the school bully, and it masterfully dismantles him with the power of an underdog’s epiphanic self-reflection. The pent-up tension throughout the album is satisfyingly channeled into the strutting rhythms and carnal pleasures of “In Your Skin” and “Black Lust.” Rounding out the dynamics are the mid -tempo tracks “Blind” and “Ghost Arm” which teeter between slinky 1990s infectious alt-rock and punk rock anthemics.
Holy White Hounds are currently building a robust profile on alternative and active rock radio stations nationally. In 2014, the quartet self-released their debut EP Oh Mama which garnered critical acclaim, attracting the attention of local rock powerhouse station KAZR/Des Moines. The station’s support, and respected standing as a barometer of quality new music, kicked off nationally an unofficial radio campaign for Holy White Hound’s current single “Switchblade.” The track also has the distinction of receiving backing from digital tastemaking outlets. "Switchblade" has also been featured on the Rock homepage of iTunes as a New Artist Spotlight, and Apple Music Rock has added the band to their "Ones To Watch" playlist. The young band has fortified its growing legacy with incendiary shows sharing the stage with such diverse artists as Cage the Elephant, Sick Puppies, Cake, Wavves, Surfer Blood, and Rob Zombie.
Thinking back on a decade of friendship between Ambrose and Brenton, the sacrifices to make music that’s vital, and how the quartet has become a family and a seasoned touring entity, Brenton says: “When I find myself somewhere in Missouri at three in the morning at a Wendy’s, I look around and realize there’s no place I would rather be. I’m with my best friends, doing something I’m proud of. All the hard work and long drives are worth it.” Ambrose adds: “The biggest thing I’ve learned is that if you’re challenging yourself emotionally and artistically, you can put your head down at night feeling fulfilled.”
"The Cult were always something of a musical juxtaposition—Ian Astbury’s unique doom-laden vocals combined with Billy Duffy’s melodic and punchy axework to create a sound that was both ear-friendly and gothic" - PopMatters