Archive for His Hero is Gone

Review: Agnosy

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , on May 14, 2019 by Magadh

Agnosy When Daylight Reveals the Torture Scream Records

Every few years the London crust band Agnosy drops another record. They seem to take a little longer between releases than some other bands, but it always seems like it’s worth the wait. When Daylight Reveals the Torture is no exception. As with their first two LPs (Past the Point of No Return and Traits of the Past), this new release is redolent with dark atmosphere. With each recording, Agnosy have managed increasingly complex song structures. They’re not the most melodic of crust bands. They don’t have the spiraling riffs of bands like Martyrdöd or Burning Bright, but they find their way to a happy medium between melody and hard-charging crust that works every time.

I like crust as a musical format, but I don’t find myself reviewing a lot of crust records, and it’s mostly because I don’t have a huge amount to say about them. It’s not hard to sound like Anti-Cimex, but that was then and this is now. So why is it that I find Agnosy so compelling? There are several reasons, but the most important is song structure. If you listen to In Extremis, Martyrdöd’s second record (and the one on which they really found their voice) what you hear is riffs that are longer and more complicated than those of Crude SS and their legion of imitators. This, by the way, is no slam on Crude SS, who were pioneers of crust in the same way as bands like (the aforementioned) Anti-Cimex, or Asocial, or Mob 47, or…well, you get the picture. Crust needed to develop stylistically and In Extremis was a step forward that moved the whole genre ahead.

Since then there have been a lot of very good crust records released, records that have picked up the gauntlet that Martyrdöd threw down. Some of you out there might be reading this and this that I’m getting the periodization wrong, forgetting bands like His Hero is Gone or From Ashes Rise or Tragedy. That’s a fair point, but I think that Martyrdöd’s riff structure is more complicated than any of those bands, much as they are all world-crushingly awesome. To my ears, Wretched of the Earth or Dark Circles are bands that have taken the idea of more complex riffs and song structures forward.

In any case, Agnosy have produced another absolutely raging disc, their best one yet by a ways, and that is really saying something. The guitar sound is crisp and clear, which is always a big question when you’re dealing with down-tuning. It tells you a lot that this disc was mastered at Audiosiege by Brad Boatright. Boatright has made himself into the pre-eminent figure is this line of work by making bands sound awesome without necessarily making them sound like From Ashes Rise. Not that it would necessarily be a bad thing if they did, but his products manage to be both dark and clear in ways that manage to sound original rather than just being copies of what his band sounds like.

When Daylight Reveals the Torture is pretty close to an ideal crust record. It isn’t too long, clocking in around half an hour or so. It leaves the listener wanting more, not less. In a related vein, the song arrangements are good, reasonably complex without losing focus. One of the real failings of a lot of crust music is the need to rehash the same ideas over and over. If you’re going to do really simple riffs, the songs need to be short enough that the people listening aren’t looking at their watches by the end. It’s one thing when you’re playing live and can bludgeon the audience with sound. On record there is a lot to be said for shorter is better. The relatively more worked out structure of Agnosy’s riffs keeps interest quite nicely. The guitars are thick and guttural, but the retain enough tone to make the music sound bright, in a downtuned sort of way. Politically engaged lyrics are a plus, and the singer sounds kind of demented while still making identifiable words. Stylistically they sound a bit like slightly catchier version of Myteri (at least to my ear), or Instinto, or maybe a bit like Warcollapse, although the drumming is a little less far out. Anyway, this release is absolute quality and really stands head and shoulders above what is a very crowded crusty field just at the moment.

Review: Tragedy

Posted in Reviews with tags , , on August 8, 2012 by Magadh

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.

Magadh