Cult of Youth
The Atlantic Nightspot, Gainesville, FL November 6, 2012
Seemed like a damn good idea, get out of town on the evening of what looked at the time to be a contentious election night and wallow in some good ol' neo-folk prophesying. And from moment one, Cult of Youth holds up their end of the devil's bargain. Stepping onstage looking like four entirely different bands -- guitarist/industrial act, bassist/deathrock/punk, drummer/metal, frontman/Sol Invictus -- the members take their places. Frontman Sean Ragon disdainfully plucks at his guitar once, and in a doomy baritone belied by his slight stature, mutters something along the lines of, "Whoever you voted for, you've elected a lizard," and as the band snaps in the first song, he arcs his head up and lets loose a shower of spit. And with that, it's on.....
I've seen Death in June before. They weren't refined or sensitive in terms of their live performance tactics at all; it was a sweaty, organic spectacle, and Cult of Youth has learned that lesson very well, reveling in the theatrics and cues of a punk or hardcore show (or even, dare I say, and please don't take this as an insult, some of the conviction and kinetics of a Bruce Springsteen or a Joe Strummer, at the very least in the steel cable tenseness of the various players' necks). It was a constant wonder to see Ragon open his mouth, and out of a weedy frame emit a low, deep, imperious rumble from which no quarter would/could be given. The guitarist lurked in the shadows, stabbing at a small synth, and kept himself resolutely in his own space. The bassist's crust goth look was totally 100% impressive, and he backed it up by playing his bass slung Peter-Hook style low, with nonetheless a steady thrum OF DOOM.
The question at the beginning of the night was: Is Cult of Youth going to be able to pull of the richly hued and near-psychedelic textures of their Love Will Prevail album, given their new, trimmed-down lineup? I mean sure, they'll be able to render the marital strumming and soothsaying of early albums all day fucking long. But there's so much new and exotic tone and texture, AND can they do it while keeping the essential BLEAKNESS at the core of their formula? Yes. Whew! Not one inch of authoritarian power was sacrificed, and yet, there were so many lump-in-throat moments. And when Ragon pulled out a fucking trumpet to contort himself like Louis Armstrong meets Iggy Pop... Damn man, sight to behold.
Even more satisfyingly, they ended their too-short set with an extended noise freakout that saw the guitarist ram himself into his amp and Ragon submerged in various cords and pedals. A final ragged catharsis. Four more years!