"Sonic Temple" is the 4th full-length studio album by UK hard rock act The Cult. The album was released through Beggars Banquet/Sire Records in April 1989. The band changed their style from their original New wave/goth/alternative rock style to hard rock on the Rick Rubin produced "Electric (1987)" and that move earned them quite a bit of commercial success. "Sonic Temple" further expanded the band´s commercial success and quickly cemented the band´s position as one of the leading hard rock acts of that era.
We´re talking hook laden and stadion designed hard rock. Very catchy and with loads of commercial appeal. The Cult´s albums from this era are often tagged glam metal, and while the music certainly has many similarities with that genre, this is not really glam metal to my ears. While the band changed their style over the years it´s always been Ian Astbury´s Jim Morrisson (The Doors) type vocal delivery and Billy Duffy´s hook laden riff work that defined the sound of The Cult, and that´s also the case on "Sonic Temple". The album features several tracks that are Cult "classics" like "Sun King", "Fire Woman" and of course "Sweet Soul Sister", but most tracks on the album are high quality hard rock of the more easily accessible and polished kind.
It´s actually quite amazing that the band were able to produce such a confident and consistent album, as there were serious internal turmoil in the band at the time of the recording of the album. Lead vocalist Ian Astbury lived a self-loating and self-destructive life, unable to cope with the pressure and expectations of being a big rock star. His unruly and erratic behaviour caused the band to cancel the Japanese leg of their tour supporting "Electric (1987)", and at that point the band were close to calling it quits. After a break the band returned to the studio and recorded an album full of material, which was to be released under the title "Peace". The band felt unhappy about the results of the recordings though and they were shelved. Instead they opted to record a new album in America with producer Bob Rock, but as recording began it was obvious that especially Ian Astbury on one side and Billy Duffy and Bob Rock on the other side had different ideas to how the album should sound. Astbury wanted a more gritty sound while Duffy and Bob Rock wanted to pursue a big stadion friendly commercial hard rock sound. As it turned out Astbury was overruled and at the time didn´t have the strength to fight for his convictions (he was drinking heavily and his father was dying of cancer).
So despite of all the troubles the band were having they released the most commercially successful album of their career and listening to the album today it´s perfectly understandable why the album became such a grand success. It´s memorable, well written, well produced (if you enjoy big polished hard rock productions) and very well performed. A 3.5 - 4 star (75%) rating is deserved.