I’m guessing there wasn’t a lot of friendly smiles, high fives, and general chuckling in the studio when Sean Ragon was recording his newest long player as Cult of Youth. In fact, I’m thinking laughing and cajoling was frowned upon. I mean, I wouldn’t necessarily throw Cult of Youth in the same sinking, blood-strewn boat as say his label mate Pharmakon; but he definitely makes Bauhaus seem like a bubblegum pop band. Final Days is exactly what that title suggests; a downtrodden, end-of-days dirge into the darkest corners of darkness, with an occasional break in the black sky for a bloody smirk.
“Todestrieb” is all crackles and squeaks. It sounds like a whipping post in Hell, with the occasional moan here and there. Post-apocalyptic and tribal. It’s the sound of no hope. But then we’re immediately treated to “Dragon Rouge” which has the vibe of early Echo and the Bunnymen. “Empty Faction” breaks out even further with a mix of post-punk bravado, complete with a sound that pulsates like a Joy Division/The Birthday Party slugfest. “God’s Garden” is another song that could be considered upbeat, as far as Cult of Youth are concerned. It’s a driving post-punk track that has Ragon barking bloody spittle on the mic as musically the track is reminiscent of a time before Robert Smith teased his hair and put on eyeliner. Not so theatrical; more visceral and groove-filled. “Down The Moon” has the vibe of a campfire acoustic session, with an almost bluesy vibe.
Up to this point Final Days, while still dark in mood and tone, has a flow to it. It’s a sound that I’d call “industrial folk” or “post-apocalyptic post-punk”. When we hit “Of Amber” the curtain raises to reveal Ragon on a mountaintop strumming to nothing on the horizon. Ornamented with horn, percussion, and distant screams, it’s the kind of song that gets to the heart of the album. It’s the sweet and sour. Pretty and ugly. “No Regression” gets all tribal like Crocodiles-era Bunnymen. “Sanctuary” is over nine minutes and is epic in noise and anger. It starts out with acoustic and tribal drums, slowly building into an explosive squall of noise before simmering back down to the acoustic and electric guitar just under the surface. It’s like Love took some bad acid with Richie Havens and Atomic Rooster. “Sanctuary” is the result of said trip.
You know, once you pass through Sean Ragon’s world a few times and things become more and more familiar the darkness isn’t so bad. In fact, you feel this almost empowering vibe that permeates throughout Final Days. It’s like Ragon is looking into the abyss and seeing the death of humanity. But instead of being overcome by it he’s celebrating it. Last track “Roses” says it all. It’s pretty and painful; it’s delightful and dour. Gothic folk for post-apocalyptic punks.
7.9 out of 10