Archive for tragedy

Review: Brink of Despair

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , on January 28, 2013 by Magadh

Brink of Despair rooted in dust

BRINK_COVERThere is a certain temptation associated with speed in the crust scene. The common picking patterns offer a comforting normalcy. There is something pleasing in this for the listener as well, a comforting rhythm that keeps the head bobbing. Gearing down into the middle tempos is most often seen as a sort of set up for the take off. This all well and good, but it is just the slightest bit limiting. Perhaps the most appealing thing about Leipzig’s Brink of Despair is their willingness to hang about in the middle tempos without feeling the need to launch into hyper speed every fourth bar.

This takes a certain confidence in the one’s licks, and not every band could pull it off. If Tragedy spent long periods in this register, they were abetted in doing so by the fact that the crushing wall of sound that they were generating bludgeons all resistance into meek submission. Brink of Despair adopt on a more metallic approach. Where Tragedy relied on crushing chords and thick production, Brink of Despair have a rather sparser sound, featuring chunky metal licks and the occasional passage of single string melodics reminiscent of Stockholm death metal. Without the panacea of speed, BoD rely on subtle arrangements and dark atmosphere to get their point across. Occasionally they break out into a faster tempo and the contrast is made all the more powerful by the fact that it is so long in coming. For those immersed in the crust scene, this disc will inspire tension as one waits for the shift to the higher gear. More often than not it does not come, and the tension remains.

Their playing here is refreshingly raw. Simple riffs, played with conviction and thoughtfully arranged. The lyrics run to the personal rather than the political, which is all for the best, considering the singer sounds like he’s about to have a stroke. Maybe he needs this time to work all the shadows out. I’ve heard them compared to Alpinist, but I suspect that that had more to do with the fact that they are both from Germany. A more apt point of comparison would Sarabante, although BoD are slower and have noticeably more metallic ambiance.

This would have jumped to the top of my “Best of 2013” list if it hadn’t been released late last year. Why am I always the last to know these things? Better late than never. In the crowded, and often repetitive field of crust these days, the pleasure of finding something that sounds just that little bit different is an infrequent pleasure.

Magadh

Neurosis Redux

Posted in Articles with tags , , , , , on January 7, 2013 by Magadh

Owing to technical difficulties,  as well as Washington’s cannabis laws, the footage and review of Neurosis/Tragedy/Blackbreath/Stoneburner from January 5th at Seattle’s Showbox is irretrievable. Suffice to say the line up was mind blowing and nobody feels worse about the loss than me. That said, I did want to address some of the nonsense directed a Neurosis from sections of the local chattering class.

Let me preface the rest of this piece by saying that nobody will accuse me of being  a shameless Neurosis fan boy. Prior to receiving a copy of Honor Found in Decay (an excellent record by the way) from a friend the last Neurosis album I purchased was Enemy of the Sun. I’ve found their more recent material to be most compelling live, so I haven’t made the effort to augment my collection. Still, they’ve always been a band I have tremendous respect for.

My respect for the band is why the misguided ramblings of a few local types can’t be allowed to go unanswered. Specifically, the notion that the band is “out of ideas”, “cashing in with this tour” and “not challenging audiences, just playing what people want”. Where to begin addressing this idiocy?

Firstly, Scott Kelly, Jason Roeder, Dave Edwardson and Noah Landis all spent time living in the New Method Warehouse located in Emeryville. New Method was dirty, bleak, tough, DIY and empowering. Neurosis has embodied those traits throughout its existence. The bands added to the bill for the Seattle Show, Black Breath, Tragedy and Stoneburner, certainly confirm the band remembers its roots. Kelly was quoted as saying that Neurosis is fundamentally based in Black Sabbath and Black Flag. The bands chosen to share the stage with them confirm they are not alone. Further, the evening’s lineup, and indeed the lineups throughout the tour, reflects a strong commitment to supporting the DIY community. In addition, if cashing in is reflected in an 8 show US tour, they seem to be doing things wrong.

Addressing the idea that the band is just, in essence, playing the hits I present the set list from January 5th.

  1. Eye
  2. My Heart for Deliverance
  3. At the End of the Road
  4. Times of Grace
  5. Distill
  6. At the Well
  7. Left to Wander
  8. We All Rage in Gold
  9. Bleeding the Pigs
  10. Given to the Rising
  11. Locust Star

A plurality of tracks were culled from Honor Found in Decay, with the rest drawn from The Eye of Every Storm, Through Silver in Blood, Given to the Rising and Times of Grace. This certainly doesn’t speak to a band pandering to its audience. Rather, the set list is well curated with each track flowing into the other as the band builds to the amazing “Locust Star”. 

Finally, the band’s willingness to part ways with Josh Graham and the visual experience is laudable. I’ve seen the band on the Word as Law, without visuals, as well as during the evolution of the projections from film to digital elements. The visual elements were extremely well selected, enhanced the live performance and became as exulated as the band’s music. This is why I find their decision to strip them away commendable. A band content with the status qua does not make that sort of decision

I’d like to leave you with footage from the show. The band is performing “At the Well” and the power of the performance does more to rebut the nattering of the perpetually discontent  than all of the preceding text.

– Captain of Games

Review: Downfall of Gaia

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , , , on October 22, 2012 by Magadh

Downfall of Gaia Suffocating in the Swarm of Cranes Metal Blade

At some trying point in history, a famous white guy (now long dead) said something like, “These are the times that try men’s souls.” I don’t know how true it was then, but I assure you that it’s been such a time around the bunker for the last couple of weeks. Perhaps a fortnight ago the autolock on one of the outer doors malfunctioned allowing one of the local zombie hordes access to some of the peripheral cells of the bunker. Of course, the secondary system kicked in, and when the motion sensors were tripped half a dozen claymores went off, reducing the zombies to feculent grey mist. This all happened while Mrs. Mags and I were on a little trek to one of the local settlement to try to barter some of our soilent purple for some electronics that we needed. Not surprisingly, our return to find the peripheral cells covered in a fine patina of zombie remains resulted in the following exchange:

Mrs. Mags: Did you remember to lock the outer door when we left?

Magadh: Of course I did. I did it just after I finished loading the food cubes into the atv.

Mrs. Mags: Well, somebody forgot to lock it and it wasn’t me.

Magadh: So what are you saying?

Mrs. Mags: What do you think I’m saying?

After a few more iterations it became clear that I was going to be spending the next few days in the cells with a high pressure hose getting things squared away. Ahh, marriage.

Of course, all of this happened while the Captain was out of the picture. He was in one of the local trading bazaars the other week and heard some deranged prophet gibbering about heading to the east to find a promised land of peace and freedom. Needless to say, he was all over that like a cheap suit. The last I saw, he was headed into the mountain passes wearing an old Hawaiian shirt can carrying a gallon jug of margaritas. I expect he’ll be back any day now.

Anyway, normal service is now being resumed. I’ve been meaning for a while to do a piece on the German dark crust band Downfall of Gaia. They have been on the radar for a bit and since they’ve just had a record come out on Metal Blade, it seemed like an appropriate time to say a few words. DoG come from the German city of Hannover which, as their bio on Metal Blade’s site appositely points out, is not one of the real fashion spots in terms of the German music scene. Many people (including myself) are aware of one and only one band from that particular locality: The Scorpions. True to form, DoG rock like a hurricane, although in a rather different musical than Rudolf Schenker and co. They’ve been around since at least 2008, when the released a self-titled demo. The four songs included presented an interesting mixture of blistering, crusty thrash, slower breakdowns that bore a certain similarity to bands like Tragedy, and acoustic sections that would not have been out of place on Discouraged Ones-era Katatonia. This release set a pattern which extends to their entire body of work: acoustic elements, some of which are quite extended, are used to set up crushingly heavy central riffs.

On Epos, released in 2010, this approach was sharpened and refined. The acoustic intros were rather more lush, and they tended lead into passages that drew the best out of blackened doom without giving in to it’s boring excesses. They also began to experiment with rather longer songs, with “Zerfall” (“Collapse”) running just over ten minutes. Long songs can be a good thing, assuming a band has the ideas to support the length. This can be a hard quality to pin down, but you can tell it’s happening when you find yourself getting lost in the music, rather than wondering when the song is going to end. The songs on Epos do a good job of drawing the listener in to a dark world and keeping them engaged, which is a real sign of success in a cut lasting 8-10 minutes.

DoG followed Epos with a split with Hearts of Emperors released in February of last year. What was said above about Epos holds a fortiori in this case. DoG’s contribution to the split comprises two cuts totaling over 20 minutes. It is common for bands in this style to try to extinguish the last embers of your soul, and two 9+ minute songs, if done poorly, could probably accomplish that, although not in the way intended. Continuing to fill out their style, DoG’s cuts on the split sound like a crustier version of Moonsorrow, sliding at points into a sound reminiscent of Counterblast.

Earlier this year it was announced that they had signed to Metal Blade. This in itself was a bit surprising, to me at least. Perhaps it is because I am so old, but I still associate Metal Blade with all those cookie cutter, Brian Slagel produced bands from the 1980s. They seem to have expanded their outlook, quite impressively in this case. DoG’s latest release, Suffocating in the Swarm of Cranes, came out a couple of weeks ago and has hardly left my disc player since it arrived in the bunker. The seven songs comprised therein represent the fulfillment of an arc of stylistic development from their demo. The tunes retain the soft/loud dynamic, and they still do an excellent job of creating atmosphere. The improvements in Suffocating are twofold. On the one hand, the recording is rather better than on previous releases, given a sharpness and immediacy to their music that was somewhat muffled on earlier releases. On the other, they have managed to rein in their arranging to a certain degree. Although they still do some pretty long songs (two cuts clock in at over ten minutes) their songs have a more precise shape and approach. They seemed to have added a bit of black metal influence, although it may have been present in earlier releases without having been highlighted by the mix. In any case, this is an absolutely crushing disc. Fans of bands like Neurosis will enjoy with, as will those who enjoy blackened crust on the model of Hammers. Find one at your local market before the snows come and the passes close for another season.

Those looking for a bit of instant gratification can find some sustenance here.

Magadh

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

We Heart D-beat!

Posted in Dispatches with tags , , , , , , , on June 1, 2012 by Magadh

If there is one thing the 1000 Trivialities bunker holds self evident it is the unassailable truth that d-beat is unfuckwithable. In that spirit, we’d like to share a few of our favorite bands with you.

Discharge “Hear Nothing See Nothing Say Nothing”

Wolfbrigade “Hostile Wasteland”

Disfear “Misanthropic Generation (live)”

Skitsystem “No Hope, No Future, No Second Chance”

Tragedy Full set live at Tampere, Finland 5.13.11

– Captain of Games