Cult of Youth changed my life. Years ago when I was still an undergraduate at Duke, I picked up Cult of Youth's self-titled record from Bull City Records. I was twenty years old and hadn't heard of neofolk or even folk punk. I didn't really, you know, "get it" at first: it was different than what I typically listened to, but it was a record to which I came back with frequency. It made me eager to here more, which I did with their 2012 album Love Will Prevail, one of my favorite records of that year.
A lot changed on October 20, 2012, when Cult of Youth played the Empty Bottle. It was the first time I had seen them, and I'm going to say right off the bat that I was fucking hammered at that show. I had been bonding with Christian and Jasper over alcohol at the bar but didn't meet Sean until he ran out the back door of the stage to smoke a cigarette atop a garbage can. I followed him back there and plopped down next to him, where we talked about mental illness and music. He later introduced me to Craig Lewis, who is doing incredible work as a Peer Counselor and giving talks on punk rock, mental illness, and recovery.
On March 9, 2013, I went to see Cult of Youth again and they took me in and brought me into the green room, which is where I met my now very close friend Jeffrey Cornille (of Jinx). First off, Jeff has gotten me in to so many incredible bands from Genocide Organ to Raspberry Bulbs to Pharmakon - he's really been important to my musical and artistic development so thanks if you're reading this, Jeff :) (I know you like emoticons so I put one in). Jeff would also later convince me to tour with Death in June and Cult of Youth on the East Coast, a defining chapter of my life, and also one of the major events that brought me in touch with industrial people and industrial culture. So my interests have changed more than a little because of Cult of Youth, but I've also made a ton of friends through them - so, first and foremost, I owe you guys some thanks. You've made a huge impact on my life and when you're back in Chicago, I owe you a round, though I'll stick to tea, myself, if you don't mind.
Anyway, with that exegesis out of the way, let's talk about their new fantastic album Final Days. This album is big in scale, sound, and approach. It came out in two entities: one as a single standard LP, and one as a Double LP with bonus songs and deluxe packaging. Sean has said that it is meant to be heard as the 2 x LP product and I'm certain that once mine comes in the mail that I will agree with him.
The album begins with a long intro "Todestrieb," meaning "death drive," sort of how humans are working towards our own destruction. I promote positivityThe Hunt, Cory Flanigan, and Paige Flash.
, but the realist in me can't help but look around and think that we're definitely on our death-driven pilgrimage. The song is made with human bones and clearly has a supernatural era of beings behind the veil of reality pulling strings or practicing magick. From there, the album enters familiar territory with songs rooted in an acoustic guitar before becoming an unyielding instrumental gyre. The band on this record is new, featuring Christian Kount and Jasper McGandy, previously of
In all sincerity, the five-piece layout seems to have fleshed out the music more, especially on a slow burner like "Sanctuary," my favorite track on the album, and in all sincerity a song that I wish I had written. It's monumental and really fucking intimidating, partially because of its length of more than nine minutes, but also its use of narrative framing like the acoustic intro, the build, the cantankering, climactic use of feedback and repetitive phrasing, the comedown, and ultimate denouement, which actually parallels the scope and flow of the entire album.
There are more obvious singles too, like the postpunk nugget "Empty Faction," linked below, which flies above a snaking, icy guitar lead from Christian Kount. It's the most rock n' roll song and also the most easily digestible, which isn't to detract from the song, but rather to invite in new listeners. Sean's shrieks are also at the forefront of this song, which in previous Cult of Youth records, were something of a treat, not a familiarity.
Final Days is absolutely the most fully-realized album in the Cult of Youth repertoire and a great place to begin to get to know the best current band in America.