Their fifth gig, at London's Haven Club, received an audience of over 2,000! As Death Cult (an evolution of the name of Astbury's previous gothic/punk rock band Southern Death Cult) and signing to independent record label 'Situation Two', an offshoot of 'Beggars Banquet Records', they made their recording debut with a triple 'A'-side single in 1982 titled Moya, and supported Bauhaus on tour the next year. By March of that year they folded because Astbury was upset at their image of being 'positive punk', and that his Native American concept was being 'watered down' by the rest of the band. Their debut (and only album) under their original configuration, Death Cult (1983), was released in January of 1983 posthumously.
His new band, still under the Death Cult name, comprised the rhythm section of Ritual, a recently departed punkrock rock band, in the form of Ray 'The Reverend' Mondo (drums) and Jamie Stewart (bass). Billy Duffy (ex-Ed Banger And The Nosebleeds/ex-Theatre of Hate; guitar) joined in shortly after. This reformed line-up made its recording debut on a self-titled 12 inch, God's Zoo. Astbury who was using the name Ian Lindsay (his mother's maiden name) used his own from this point on. Shortly after an appearance at the Futurama festival Mondo was forced to to give his drum stood over to Nigel Preston (ex-Sex Gang Children), a former band mate of Duffy's in Theatre Of Hate era, when he was deported back home to Sierra Leone. 1984 would see the final name change for the act, which feared that the 'Death' prefix typecast them as a gothic act so they dropped it in favor of just Cult.
Its sales boosted by a number one in the independent charts for the anthemic Spiritwalker single, they released their new debut album, Dreamtime in 1984. She Sells Sanctuary, as a single, would follow close behind on the charts the following year. Mark Brzezicki of Big Country took over Preston's spot for the studio sessions of the follow-up recording until Les Warner permanently took over the spot.
Love (1985) proved to be the act's coming out onto the scene. It featured full-bodied hard rock tracks and strong guitaring. She Sells Sanctuary, now a track on the album, hit the charts high as did Rain. Electric (1987) completed the metamorphosis to a hard rock act leaving little clue as to their inspirations. Produced, in part by Rick Rubin, it proved to be a bold and strong statement. It became a huge success on both sides of the Atlantic, receiving a 4 in the US and a 38 in the UK [I guess the Brits are harder to impress]. The track gone single, Love Removal Machine, would prove to be one of their biggest hits; it was inspired by Astbury's thoughts on the work of a 60-year-old stripper he watched one night at a military social club.
Electric almost didn't happen, however. After the supporting world tour for Love, the band booked themselves into the Manor Studios in Oxfordshire, UK, with producer Steve Brown (who had produced Love), and recorded over a dozen new songs. The band were unhappy with the sound of the proposed new album, to be titled Peace, and they decided to go to New York so producer Rick Rubin could remix the first single, Love Removal Machine. Rubin agreed to work with the band, but only if they rerecorded the song, but this eventually lead to Rubin rerecording the entire album with them. 'Beggars Banquet', the label, was displeased with this, as two months and £250,000 had already been spent on the record - never mind now having it completely redone! However, after hearing the initial New York recordings, the label acquiesced. The first single, Love Removal Machine, was released in February 1987, and the new version of the album, now named Electric appeared in April that same year, eventually outselling Love. Indeed, only a few of the original songs from the first Peace recordings were kept; the full Peace album would not be released until 2000, when it was included as Disc 3 of the Rare Cult box set.
The follow-up gigs saw Stewart switch to bass. John Webster was brought in to play keyboards, while the band used Chris Taylor to play drums during rehearsals and record the demos, with future KISS drummer Eric Singer performing during the second demo recording sessions. Kid 'Haggis' Chaos (Real Name: Mark Manning; ex-Zodiac Mindwarp And The Love Reaction) take Stewart's old position, but he and Warner would soon after be disposed of entirely, with the former joining 4 Horsemen. Produced again by Bob rock in Vancouver, Canada, Sonic Temple (1989) would be the result. The album would merge the energy of Electric with the passion of Love. Even though the album didn't lack either, it didn't matter on the quality or content, for their past success made them a name brand outfit guaranteeing success, and indeed, Ceremony (1991) made it at 9 UK/25 US despite the complaints accusing it of being listless. During the demo recordings, Todd Hoffman and James Kottak played bass and drums respectively. During the actual album recording sessions, Curry was recruited again, with Charley Drayton for bass, along with various other session musicians. During this time, however, Astbury and Duffy's working relationship had disintegrated to the point that the two men were apparently rarely in the studio together during recording.
The band were then sued by the parents of the Native American boy pictured on the cover of Ceremony, for alleged exploitation and for the unauthorized use of the child's image. This image of the boy was also featured in the video for Wild Hearted Son. The lawsuit delayed the release of the album in many countries, including South Korea and Thailand, which did not see the record's release until late 1992; Turkey didn't see the record until the band played shows in Istanbul in June 1993.
The follow-up "best of..." compilation, Pure Cult (1993), made it to 34 US but sales were not as impressive as the previous three records by selling only a million units worldwide.
With the membership of Astbury, Duffy, Craig Adams (ex-Sisters of Mercy/ex-Mission; bass) and Scott Garrett (drums) in 1994 they reunited with producer Bob rock to create their self-titled The Cult. It contained a tribute to Kurt Cobain (of Nirvana who had recently committed suicide) titled Sacred Life among its tracks. The album was a point-blank flop.
During the Black Rain tour of South America in spring of 1995, despite the fact that several more new songs had already been recorded, the tour was cancelled after an appearance in Rio de Janeiro in March, when the band suddenly split up citing unspecified problems on the tour. The recording company re-released many of their back catalog and added a fresh "best of..." compilation High Octane Cult (1996).
In 1999, Astbury and Duffy reformed with Matt Sorum and ex-Porno for Pyros bassist Martyn LeNoble. In November 2000, 'Beggars Banquet' released 15000 copies of a six-disc box set (with a bonus seventh disc of remixes for the first 5000 copies) titled Rare Cult, featuring just that... rarities of the band.
After signing to 'Atlantic Records' the band recorded the new album, Beyond Good and Evil. The album, however, was not the comeback record the band had hoped for. Despite reaching 37 in the US, 22 in Canada, and 25 in Spain, sales quickly dropped, only selling some 500,000 copies worldwide. The record label was also causing waves when they tried to micro-manage the album by attempting to tamper with the lyrics, artwork and choice of singles distributed to radio to the point that the single, Rise, got pulled completely from radio just as it was getting play. The working relationship with 'Atlantic' seemed to be only as useful as the paper it was written on when Duffy decided to walk away from the project entirely. After the supporting tour, In late 2002, Astbury declared the band to be "on ice" indefinitely.
Consisting of Astbury (vocals), Duffy (lead guitar), John Tempesta (drums), Dimkich (rhythm guitar) and Wyse (returning as bassist) the band reformed in 2005. On 29 May 2007, the band signed a deal with 'Roadrunner Records'. Their 8th studio album, Born into This (2007) was released. Choice of Weapon (2012) would follow. With Grant Fitzpatrick and Damon Fox taking over bass and keyboards respectively in 2015, Hidden City (2016) would emerge.