There is a strange sense of self-satisfaction when a beloved artist creates and releases their most complete and mature work to date. Not long ago Cult of Youth was a one-man recording project releasing quirky, angry, martial neofolk with echoes of raucous punk rock and industrial overtones. From the beginning they have been a particularly challenging band. Watching them evolve into the powerhouse they have become has given a personal beaming sense of pride. From the solo-recorded martial obscurity of A Stick to Bind, A Seed To Grow, to last year’s indie-infused collective statement of the self-titled, Sacred Bones Records debut, the band has existed several steps outside of the box. Consider that specific evolution to be a spectrum, with the lo-fi solo record on one extreme and the organic, too-indie-for-some record on the other. It is spectrum that is quickly arching into a full circle. This is not to say that they are “back to their roots”, and rather than a full circle, consider this present evolution to be an upward spiral! Obscure metaphors aside, Love Will Prevail is undoubtedly the record that the band has been “waiting their whole life to make”. The power and the majesty of an organic recording matched with the riskiness and experimentation of one isolated brilliant mind has rendered a milestone in the Cult of Youth legacy – perceptible from the first note to the last. The “New Old Ways” indeed!
Sean Ragon, that infamous and puzzling figure, and his band are one of the rarest entities to emerge from the hazy, and unclassifiable, realm of neofolk or post-industrial folk. So many artists self-identify as such, but so often the dissimilarities within this genre tag are incredibly vast. It is quite something to see a band that started as a strange little solo creature proliferate into a visible and rising force in indie circles. Strength in vision and unwavering execution has guided this success. Never has Cult of Youth been a predictable force, but some strand of unidentifiable consistency exists over their body of work. Even over the course of a given record can the band travel and spiral through several clearly different palettes of music. This particular musical adventure throws as many curveballs as there are blissful hooks. Long time fans will feel the warm blanket of accomplishment gather around them as echoes of the past are actualized in a “professional” context. Last year’s self-titled album saw a four-piece band that stuck to the capabilities of their instruments – the result was still undeniably Cult of Youth, but it lacked the eclectic unpredictability of earlier work. That spirit of old has returned. Ragon is back at the helm of nearly all instrumentation, and thank the gods for that. A focus of vision is exactly what was needed! Just as often as before, it is a mystery where the ideas for these songs spring from: tribal safari rhythms, punk rock sneers, Americana outbursts, noisy wails, chants, even moments resembling discos beats. But always in perfect balance. Still, that constant menacing acoustic guitar leads the charge through these strange realms present on Love Will Prevail. That guiding focus of spirit is the glue that holds these chaotic dissimilar elements together in a mosaic that collapses in on itself, creating a singular, more powerful entity. It is the embodiment of post-modern sound and magick!
With a nihilistic voice, Ragon has dictated Cult of Youth’s artistic statements since the inception. An expected darkness, occultic flirtations, and nods to a Might-Is-Right philosophy have all found places in the lyrical sheets of yore – all typical fodder for the post-industrial world view. However, a new man emerges on Love Will Prevail. Perhaps the other side of a dark night of a the soul is on the horizon? There seems to be a sense of empowering optimism at the core of this imagery: “Because I fell in love, in love with the world, cause that’s when it hit me that all was right, cause that’s when it hit me that the future was bright”. It is a voice of a man that is thankful for where his journeys have ventured, and unafraid to admit it! Unafraid to scream from a mountain top that love will, indeed, prevail! In the tradition of breaking norms, this positive approach is refreshing and exciting for the watchful observer of this strange little career. Happy, hearty, powerful and full of life, this record reflects that it may have “[taken] a lifetime to feel better”, but the result is a crowning accomplishment.
The stride has been hit and there is no slowing down after this. The die-hard fans will continue to watch this success from the sidelines with beaming hearts. Love Will Prevail is also the record that we have all been waiting for since this initiation. Just as the mantra in the midst of this album states: Cult of Youth will “never change the old ways”, but merely re-envision them and construct them in refreshing expressions of unpredictable sonic manifestations.
To defy logic and to step outside is the only way to reclaim!
1. Man and Man’s Ruin
2. Golden Age
3. Prince of Peace
4. Garden of Delights
5. A New Way (Version)
6. New Old Ways
7. Path of Total Freedom
8. The Gateway
9. To Lay With the Wolves
10. It Took a Lifetime