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.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Wilson Neate