Release Date: Nov 11, 2014
Record label: Sacred Bones
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Indie Folk
The entire planet has been issued an ultimatum by the United Nations, the elderly are getting arrested for the crime of feeding the homeless, and a guy who campaigned on this is about to become Senate majority leader. Which is to say: the past two weeks have amounted to a perfect marketing rollout strategy for Final Days, the fourth and most cataclysmic album to date from Brooklyn post-industrial prophet Sean Ragon and his swelling Cult of Youth congregation. Since debuting in 2007 as a solo acoustic mission, Ragon has been gradually adding more members, not to just elaborate upon his neofolk-rooted sound, but to seemingly recruit soldiers for war.
Whatever happened to the Mayan apocalypse? Ever since 2012 came and went, popular literature and film have provided a seemingly endless banquet to stoke and serve the American public’s insatiable appetite for total destruction. Music hasn’t exactly been immune to this existential strain of hyper-pessimism either, but, then again, industrial and assorted “post-” subgenres have long been harnessing pre-and post-millennium tension, from the object assault of Einstürzende Neubauten’s Kollaps to Godspeed You! Black Emperor’s urban decay projections. More overtly conceptual, Cult of Youth’s Final Days engages a uniquely cinematic approach.
Brooklyn band Cult of Youth began as the bedroom recording project of former Love as Laughter bassist Sean Ragon and grew from the Pogues-channeling lo-fi Celtic folk-punk of their 2008 debut, A Stick to Bind, a Seed to Grow, into a far darker and more refined beast by the time of 2012's standout album Love Will Prevail. That record found Ragon and his cast of various collaborators delivering austere neo-folk somewhere between the Celtic rave-ups of their beginnings and the grim acoustic dirges of Death in June. Final Days is yet another large step forward, though Cult of Youth tread more or less the same sonic territory they have been exploring for a while.
Cult Of Youth’s third album for Brooklyn label Sacred Bones is brutal. Sean Ragon remains the gothic punks’ central figure, but here he is part of a five-piece band. On opener ‘Todestrieb’, strings creak over hollow drums and a frightening whipping sound, while ‘Dragon Rouge’ refers to “angels calling” as an acoustic riff is butchered by distant shouting and dissonant feedback.
Sean Ragon’s post-industrial project Cult of Youth has always felt hand-built, with process seemingly emphasized over product. It’s also the kind with a specific vision — and, therefore, limited room for growth. With Final Days, Ragon suggests that he might have reached that point of full realization. Starting with his self-titled Sacred Bones debut in 2011, Ragon has now completed three Cult of Youth albums in three years, drawn criticism for appropriating fascist symbolism, built his own recording studio — literally by hand — and ramped up his lineup to full-band status, adding guitarist Christian Mount, bassist Jasper McGandy, drummer Cory Flannigan, and cellist Paige Flash.