Review: Tragedy

Tragedy Darker Days Ahead Tragedy Records

There are few things I really regret in life. One of them is moving out of Portland, Oregon in 2000, right about the time that half the punks in Tennessee seem to have moved up there. If I had known beforehand that From Ashes Rise and Tragedy were in the process of decamping for the Pacific Northwest I might have thought twice about skipping town. Well, there’s no use crying over spilt milk I suppose. I do remember seeing Tragedy in a living room somewhere in northeast Portland, surrounded by a lot of spiky, dyed, and dirty people who thought that they were much cooler than I was, so I guess it wasn’t all beer and skittles while I actually did live there.

There is a vein of American hardcore in the 1990s that is defined by From Ashes Rise, Tragedy, and His Hero is Gone. Although each had their own individual sound, they shared quite a bit, certainly in terms of personnel, but more importantly in terms of atmosphere. HHiG was the first of these bands into which I came in contact, and the thing that struck me was the absolutely stygian character of their presentation. Thick, swirling guitars gave even the more melodic elements of their music a murky quality, redolent of utter despair. From Ashes Rise were similar, although employing a more d-beat oriented approach. Tragedy, comprising three former members of HHiG and former FAR bassist Billy Davis, represented not so much an amalgamation of those two sounds, as an attempt to take the project forward.

Darker Days Ahead, Tragedy’s first release since Nerve Damage in 2006, represents the perfection of the theory, so to speak. All of the trademarks that have defined Tragedy’s music for a decade are present and correct. Tragedy isn’t the kind of band that is going to blow you away with blazing speed. Their approach is defined by a guitar sound the heaviness of which must be measured in tons. Darker Days Ahead is more overtly metallic than previous releases, but this approach has been undertaken judiciously, giving the guitars a sharper edge while retaining the melodic sensibilities that have always defined their music. At points, the darkened churning sound seems to touch on regions visited by Neurosis in the era of Souls at Zero/Enemy of the Sun. In other places, Tragedy executes a more rocking approach in which the attentive listener will discern traces of FAR in their slower moments.

In sum, it’s fair to say that Tragedy have delivered another bit of excellence. From the guitars swimming in distortion, to the tortured vocals, to the dark and threatening mood, Darker Days Ahead contains all the elements that made Tragedy influential in the first place. This is not one of those records that will appeal to the shorter, louder, faster set. But imbricated with its titanic onslaught are subtleties that retain the attention through repeated spins. And that, at this point, is about the best that one can ask for.


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