Cult of Youth – Love Will Prevail

[rating: 3.5]

There seems to be a lot to the storied past and present of Sean Ragon, the lead man behind the Cult of Youth outfit, but I wonder if that’s even relevant nowadays.  Where he began is probably not nearly as important as where he’s ended up, crafting another beautiful record, Love Will Prevail, that combines elements of folk, punk and perhaps even hints of more experimental works we needn’t delve into at this point.

“Man and Man’s Ruin” begins the entire affair with a dominant strummed guitar while a tribal tom echoes in the background, setting the scene for Ragon’s deep vocal to tell the story.  For me, there’s a great bit of restraint shown in his delivery, something that came often on the last Cult of Youth record, but not quite often enough.  Of course, he can’t hold back forever, unleashing his throaty yell as a female counterpart fades in and out.  As an opener, it demonstrates a warmth on Love Will Prevail; it’s almost a quieted affair.  A similar demonstration of this touch comes in the way of “Prince of Peace,” which uses a vocal effect (recording procedure) that creates a backing group for his voice.  Personally, I’m always affected when his first grows deeper and louder in the mix.

But, while Love Will Prevail spends a great deal of its time on the softer folk side of Ragon’s influences, there’s still some punk ethos in what he does.  “Path of Total Freedom” is a short number, but it earns its inclusion here with its usage of horns atop the rocking sea shanty.  Just listening to it I can imagine my old friends stomping about as beer spills from their hands onto the floor…a nostalgic image, but a good one.  Earlier tracks such as “Garden of Delights” also provide an element of darkness that I’ve come to appreciate in Sean’s music.  The interesting bit is the electronic feedback that’s used in the middle of the track, adding that experimental touch to the group’s neo-folk-punk sound; blaring horns continue to up the ante.

While Cult of Youth definitely holds onto a heavier side of folk, I will always fawn over tracks like “To Lay With the Wolves.”  On this number, the group perfects the loud quiet loud quiet formula that’s been fashioned by their forefathers. Interestingly, it always has this live emotion to it, as if the recording process has allowed Ragon to stand before you, presenting you with his craft.  In my eyes, this is the statement track of the record, giving you hard and soft qualities, while still playing with bits of creativity that are sure to be appreciated.

In the end, Love Will Prevail is more than successful.  On many accounts, it would be easy to lump the group in as just any other folk revivalist group fronted by a former punk rocker, but there’s so much more to it.  Splashes of experimental sounds, light backing vocals and appropriate horn usage push the envelope, and in doing so allow for Cult of Youth to make a statement: they’re more than just your average neo-folk group, and we’re all better off for it.


Download:Cult of Youth – Man and Man’s Ruin [MP3]

Love Will Prevail is out now via Sacred Bones Records.

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