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The Southern Death Cult

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Album Review

Formed in Bradford, England, in 1981 by Ian Astbury, Southern Death Cult was the first incarnation of the group that would achieve international fame as the Cult by the late '80s. This posthumous album compiles tracks from Southern Death Cult's only release (the 1982 Fatman/Moya EP) alongside radio-session and live versions of numbers that would probably have featured on the group's never-recorded first album. (Astbury broke up the band in 1983 and promptly formed another group under the abbreviated name Death Cult — eventually just the Cult — with new members including Theatre of Hate guitarist Billy Duffy.) Given that the Southern Death Cult hadn't planned to release these particular versions of its material (some of which are marred by inferior sound quality), this album is best approached as an officially sanctioned bootleg. All the signature elements of the Cult's eventual sonic formula can be heard, albeit in embryonic form and on rougher, less memorable songs: piercing, jangling guitars; driving, tribal rhythms; and Astbury's distinctive, dramatic vocal style. Southern Death Cult's finest achievements were undoubtedly the charging, anti-capitalist tirade "Fatman" and the ominous, anthemic "Moya," on which Astbury denounces U.S. culture and expresses solidarity with Native Americans. That lyrical focus on Native American themes, also evident on less compelling songs like "Apache," would prove to be a recurring concern of Astbury's subsequent work. Despite those highlights, however, the value of this release resides mostly in its documentary function; consequently, it's of primary interest to Cult fans only. The album provides an interesting sampling of the band's sound in its formative stages and, moreover, captures the raw and hungry post-punk energy of Ian Astbury's first musical venture — in marked contrast with what the Cult would become by the time of 1991's overblown and self-indulgent Ceremony.

Customer Reviews

No sleep since Hammersmith

This was the record of my teenage years and the best gig I ever went to (if judged for teenage immersion and total engagement with the music) was at Southern Death Cult at Heaven in 1983.

If you were of a suburban apocalyptic bent then this was your music: raggedly post punk with its pre-goth tribal rhythms, (and before 'goth' came along to make the whole scene vaguely uncool). Astbury's charismatic, flailing performances and paranoid native americanisms via the Wirral and Bradford squats tuned right into the ids of his punk rock fans.

Maybe these tracks are lacking in the power and energy of the Cult, but it's all nascent within them. SDC live had all the power the Cult bring. The Cult played one of their earliest songs, Horse Nation, at their Hammersmith show last weekend, and it's basically an SDC number carried over: sparse, tribal, lean muscular, with a ceremonial folk lyric lifted from a native American chant. I have no time for specious nostalgia but hearing that opening guitar riff ring out again was a special moment for me and for a few transcendent moments the bearded fortysomething father and husband found within himself the mohicaned, pierced, US combatted youth from earlier years. I'm glad he's still in there.


Whilst I have to admit to having a softspot for the crossover metal grandness of Sonic Temple etc, what might have been achieved if the angst and vitriol of the early days had been channeled in another direction?
Love the rawness on this record though

Just awesome.

To get the feel it has to listened to on vinyl but that it's here and accessible is just brilliant. Wish they would tour this album not the electric bobbins


Formed: 1982

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '80s

The first incarnation of the goth punks and later metal heroes known as the Cult, Southern Death Cult formed in late 1982 near Leeds. Led by Ian Lindsay (later Astbury), and including guitarist David Burrows, bassist Barry Jepson, and drummer Haq Quereshi, the group became a big name in goth rock early in their existence, and released their first single Moya/Fatman in December 1982. Early the following year, Southern Death Cult toured with Bauhaus -- on what turned out to be the goth kings' farewell...
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The Southern Death Cult, The Southern Death Cult
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