Against all odds: William Control is back!
Release Date: April 14th, 2023
Label: Control Records
Tags: New Wave, Synth Pop, William Control
Discogs: Not yet available
Partially sounds like: Depeche Mode, Modern Talking, Rick Astley, Ashbury Heights, Priest
Final score: 4.1 stars
Matching album cliches: 3 / 7
It has been almost half a decade since the release of 'Revelations', a full-length album by 'William Control' that consisted of four previously-released EPs. Nearly a year ago, the artist unveiled 'Sex Cult Volume 1' EP, after which there was a prolonged period of silence from the artist. Therefore, it is with great delight that I am now able to appraise the latest album, 'Sex Cult', which arrives without any intervening EPs.
The album title 'Sex Cult' is likely to stir up controversy and spark debate in various circles. While songs that explore themes of sex, BDSM, and other fetishes are not uncommon in our music scene, I believe that in countries like the artist's home country, the United States, such content still can be associated with a certain degree of risk. However, delving into this topic would be beyond the scope of this review and not entirely appropriate.
Despite any potential controversy, I am pleased that 'William Control' has not abandoned music, as was previously announced, and has instead returned with a truly outstanding album that is sure to make an impact. 'Sex Cult' is an exceptional record that showcases the artist's skill and creativity, and I am excited to discuss it in further detail.
How a cult album begins
The introduction of the song features a divine vocal sample reminiscent of Depeche Mode's 'Enjoy The Silence' in the initial seconds, yet it is apparent from the outset that 'Hell' builds up more sonic pressure. As the opening track of the album 'Sex Cult', 'Hell' is a powerful and catchy number, exclaiming the artist's return with fervor. I typically like to indicate which songs are suitable for a single in my reviews. However, with this album, it is challenging to do so, as it would be easier to mention which two tracks are less suitable for that purpose.
The title track, 'Sex Cult', is slightly more chilling than the opener. Despite its provocative name, the content is not as provocative. While the song is about the world's most beautiful activity, it is presented in a passionate context. The synth sound is expertly chosen and does not overpower the lyrics. The explicit lovemaking sounds at the conclusion are appropriate and blended in with a moderate volume level.
The album's single, 'Baptized', follows as another standout track, accompanied by a fantastic music video released almost precisely one year ago. Without a lengthy introduction, William Control launches right into the memorable and infectious melody, beginning the song by the tenth second. All the tracks on the 'Sex Cult' album are pleasingly concise and sharp, with each one suitable for a single edit.
Following classic roots and paths
The song 'Brand' sounds much more melancholic at the beginning than its first song companions. The song itself is not that melancholic, but very emotional, although with a very classic relationship image. At just 100bpm, the song makes its way into the ear with a lot of attention to detail. The balance between the verses and chorus is expertly executed and creates a satisfying listening experience. At a duration of 03:21 minutes, the song is both captivating and repeat-worthy.
She gave her whole life up and she followed him
Out of the darkness out of the wasteland of sin
Lyrics from 'Brand' by William Control
The introduction of 'Abuse' can already be considered a signature 'William Control' intro, with his characteristic vocal style featured in some of his previous works. Comparing it to his widely popular hit 'The Monster' seems appropriate. The music video released in November 2020 with the announcement of "Here we begin a new adventure.…" had already sparked hopes for a comeback. Despite feeling like a long time has passed, the song itself is both light and harmonious, embodying the essence of excellent synth pop music. While not overpowering the listener with its sound, the song is sufficiently intricate in structure to avoid becoming tedious. William Control has mastered the art of this genre to perfection.
To me, the song 'Wife' falls under the category of tracks that are not meant to be released as singles and are not particularly noteworthy, earning a modest 3‑star rating.
New sex cult members
The initial six songs were released in the precise sequence on the 2022 EP titled 'Sex Cult Volume 1'. The next six songs are new and complete the album 'Sex Cult'.
The song 'Allegations' is a classic upbeat synth pop anthem with depth. I love the lyrical references: "I'm a gambling man, a beautiful loser, a stranger I have been", to the cult debut album 'Hate Culture' (2008). The song goes from the ear straight to the dance legs and brings that dark melancholic joy we know. The chorus is super catchy and can be sung along after the second repetition. An absolutely fantastic song!
The song 'Accusation' begins with an almost naïve melody and a super poppy beat. The initial sung phrases instantly evoke a sense of nostalgia for classic tunes such as Rick Astley's 'Together Forever'. Despite its light and breezy sound, the track is anything but cheesy, a delicate balance that only a few artists and groups can achieve. 'Pet Shop Boys' are another example of artists who can compose serious songs and infuse them with catchy, poppy melodies.
A love like this will always last,
She knows I am a sinner and I have a past,
She is a Bad Bitch yeah I am a catch
Lyrics from 'Accusation' by William Control
'Controversy' takes a slightly darker turn in terms of tone compared to some of the other tracks on the album. While the overall vibe of the album may conjure up nostalgic feelings of an upbeat 80s sound, this particular track offers a different experience. 'Controversy' focuses on an entertaining exploration of themes such as passion, devotion, and love, in a straightforward manner. The song's relatable nature and catchy tune make it a perfect addition to any "Best of Love" synth pop playlist.
Much more than provocative
I would almost call the song 'Haunted' one of the more society-critical songs on the album 'Sex Cult'. Yes, maybe even dystopian. Accordingly, the atmosphere and the vibe of the song is more oppressive to melancholic. Lyrically, the song has a lot of depth. In a world where many things can already be artificially created (Think of robots by Boston Dynamics, ChatGPT by OpenAI and so on) and AI chats and apps for singles that pretend to have interest and feelings for you, the question arises (or not) whether we will one day be able to replicate the feeling of 'love'. The song 'Haunted' is definitely thought-provoking and thematically fits perfectly into the album.
The track 'Tumblr' exudes an aura of buoyancy, in stark contrast to the somberness of the preceding song. It boasts a lively pop tune reminiscent of the 80s, which is sure to lift your spirits. The song is one of the standout tracks on the album 'Sex Cult' and kicks off with a somewhat cheesy, yet charming nod to 'Modern Talking' in my opinion. William Control's vocals are impeccable, resonating crystal clear, as if they were tailor-made for this genre of music. Though the composition is not intricate, it is extremely pleasing and inspires an urge to dance.
You can smash my soul like a roman soldier
Split my rose in two
You can violate my heart no composure
And oh I still love you oh forever
Lyrics from 'Tumblr' by William Control
In the final track of the album, 'William Control' offers a cover of the timeless classic 'My Way' originally by 'Frank Sinatra' (originally written as "Comme d'habitude" by 'Claude François'). Although the cover may not be to everyone's taste, it is skillfully executed and complements the artist's style. Within the context of the album, this rendition adds a level of emotional depth and serves as a fitting conclusion.
A cult, sexy album!
The album 'Sex Cult' is a superb addition to 'William Control's' discography, and it maintains the high-quality standards set by the artist's previous releases such as 'Revelations' and 'The Neuromancer'. For me it's already a must-buy and for the fans it's certainly without question. Overall, I find the album a bit catchier than the previous ones, although that's hard to imagine as the previous album and single releases are the essence of catchy synth pop songs with a touch of darkness.
It is clear that 'William Control' has put a lot of effort into the production of this album, as the songs are well-crafted and showcase the artist's versatility and musicianship. The album offers a range of moods and themes, from catchy and upbeat tracks to more contemplative and thought-provoking songs. 'Sex Cult' is an exceptional album that stands out in the genre and is highly recommended.