Pop Rocks: Youth@Risk offers parting gift with 'Everything Dies'

Charles Merritt (right) sings as he and guitarists Robbie Cook (from left), Larry Sprowls and John Edwards of the band Youth@Risk rehearse in 2001.

Truth be told, the name probably isn’t all that appropriate anymore. After all, it has been 17 years since the members of Youth@Risk came together and began forging the band’s unique blend of punk passion, metal riffs, art rock theatricality and when people least expected it, a rather sly sense of melody.


And while I’m sad to see the band, which has remained relatively quiet for several years, officially calling it a day, I have to admit that Men@Risk doesn’t have quite the same ring.

Still, the band has decided to shut up shop on a high note. Dissatisfied with its previously recorded output, Youth@Risk compiled an extensive list of fan favorites, wrote a couple of new tunes and returned to the studio for one last run at capturing the band’s famously chaotic and always inventive sound.

The result, fittingly titled Everything Dies, is a really rather epic spin through the history, and evolution, of a band willing to mature while never losing sight of the sounds and songs that initially inspired.

The band will celebrate the record’s release and, in doing so, play its farewell show on Friday, Aug. 16, at First Round, 210 11th St. Admission is free and the first 100 fans will walk away with a copy of Everything Dies. Doors open at 8 p.m.

What’s interesting about Everything Dies is the way the band managed, over the course of its creative life, to incorporate so much of what it heard and felt affected by without ever corrupting the core of its distinctive sound.

Tracks such as Onslaught and No Brains, for instance, clearly owe a debt to the post-hardcore punk acts such as Helmet that found some acceptance in the early 1990s; while a track like One Hit – a far heavier affair – incorporates not only a level of metallic menace, but also hip-hop.

What’s interesting about all these tracks is that while they might have easily started to sound like the bands both good and bad that might have influenced the songwriting process, each feels resolutely like a Youth@Risk track.

There are, quite thankfully, no Green Day mumbles or Limp Bizkit stumbles. It’s a record, I’ve found, that appeals not only sentimentally, but intellectually as well. It’s a rare treat to hear songs written by Youth as both youths and men striving to transcend and, more often than not, reaching that goal with some measure of success.

The truth is Youth@Risk was never one of Augusta’s great success stories. While many of the band’s contemporaries found some degree of regional success, the band remained, for all intents and purposes, a relatively local act.

That said, it’s influence should not be understated.

There are a slew of Augusta rock acts, both current and defunct, that owe a debt of gratitude to Youth@Risk. The band’s interesting amalgamation of prog rock and grinding metal, of pop hooks and punk power, made experimenting with style and form more than just acceptable – it made it expected.

Everything Dies concludes with a song called We Are One, a serpentine Sabbath-style rave-up about feeling empowered as a member of a band and a community. It could, in retrospect, be taken as autobiography. Perhaps it should be.

Rising up

From the unknown

All our lives

This is our song

That’s a good note to go out on.