The debut album by the Cult (although they’d released an EP and a single prior to this under the name Death Cult collected, along with some BBC sessions) as “Ghost Dance”), “Dreamtime” is an album that is noticably overlooked, likely because the band would reach enormous heights, both creatively and commercially, with their few albums, but “Dreamtime” should be evaluated for what it is– a great record.
The Cult was formed when Ian Astbury, vocalist for the Southern Death Cult, determined to pursue a direction away from the gothic sound of that band and formed a group with Theatre of Hate guitarist Billy Duffy. Astbury, a singer of enormous presence, dominated the Southern Death Cult to the point where the band felt lopsided. But in Duffy, Astbury found a performer of equally strong personality and a foil. Recruiting guitarist Jamie Stewart on bass and eventually settling on drummer Nigel Preston, the group recorded first under the name Death Cult before shortening it to the Cult to deter the gothic connotations.
“Dreamtime” is, however seeped in gothic and post-punk influences, even if it does manage to get past them as much as it embraces them– single “Spiritwalker” is probably the best example of this– a glittering, aggressive track with a great riff reminiscent of the sort of work the gothic acts were doing but avoiding any sense of lifelessness and a vocal soaked in swagger by Astbury, the song is a summation of everything they’d done up until now and yet a pointer to the future. But while it was the only piece to garner any real attention as a single, there are a number of fantastic pieces on here– the pounding, tribal rhythm-infused “Horse Nation” (also recorded on the “Ghost Dance” EP), the churning, driven, almost reggaeish “Go West”, and the very much updated Southern Death Cult piece “A Flower in the Desert” (here presented as a swirling slice of goth with a muscular guitar line). Still, the album seems to fizzle a bit towards the end with the last few tracks being less memorable (“Rider in the Snow”) or just plain bizarre (the galloping pop rhythms of the title track).
“Dreamtime” was reissued and remastered in Japan as a double with the “Live at the Lyceum” album– the sonic improvement on this rerelease is well worth the price upgrade, and the Lyceum show is a great listen.
Bottom line– “Dreamtime” gets overlooked and it shouldn’t. This is an album that deserves more attention, recommended.