Darker Days Ahead

Written by: AP on 03/08/2012 11:20:30

The story of Tragedy is one veiled in mystery, but what is known is that the band was founded in 2000 in Memphis, TN and features the members Todd Burdette, Yannick Lorrain, Billy Davis and Paul Burdette. In some circles their self-titled debut album is considered a masterpiece of crust punk, but since then the quality has dwindled and subsequently stagnated - until now. "Darker Days Ahead" is the band's fourth studio album, suceeding their 2006 release "Nerve Damage", and true to tradition, it was released without official announcement and probably initially only found by the band's cult following. It is essentially a full reinvention of their style and sound, though still a far cry from current fads and lacking modern production, and despite its very intentional underground nature, it is a release that deserves more widespread attention.

Whereas the Tragedy of old pertained to the D-beat movement, it is not until track four, "The Feeding Hour", and then "Power Fades" toward the end of the album, that evidence of their past permeates the sound, and only in tiny doses in the rhythm section. This is after three songs that are best described as an amalgamation of very old In Flames (think "Lunar Strain" and "Subterranean"), pre-"Slaughter of the Soul" era At the Gates, the first wave of Norwegian black metal as professed by the likes of Darkthrone, and a slight flavouring of crust and hardcore. As such the opening trio, which comprises "No Cemeteries Here", "Close at Hand" and "The Grim Infinite", is as much a devolution as an evolution; they refurbish Tragedy's sound with brilliant moods and atmospheres, but home in on a sound that has not been utilized since the mid-nineties. What this means is that despite not working with a novel sound, Tragedy create twice the impact of most modern bands, simply because those songs produce such a sweet, shocking blast from the past. One only wishes that Todd Burdette had followed suite with a more appropriate vocal style instead of sticking with the monochromatic roar he has used for twelve years.

But the vocal performance is essentially the only weakness in "Darker Days Ahead", which recalls one of the most revered periods in metal, namely the original Gothenburg sound, in faithful and uncompromising manner. Taking into account the relatively simplistic nature of Tragedy's previous material, the change is quite substantial, and one that exposes an entire new facet of the quartet's songwriting prowess. There is an almost sublime understanding of structure, dynamics and contrast audible in the songs, which often plummet into the netherworld with suffocating walls of harmonized melody and rumbling bass only to restrain themselves with a quietly whispering clean bridge; and nowhere is their ingenuity more pronounced than on the magnificent title track, the darkness and melody of which should feel like an injection of adrenaline straight into a melodeath fan's heart. Time after time, this song continues to take my breath away, and although together with "No Cemeteries Here" it stands as the clear pinnacle of album, the remaining songs do not lag far behind.

Despite the the vocal style dragging the overall impression down somewhat, it is relatively pain-free to acclimatize to Todd's contributions when one understands the background from which his chosen style originates. And once that's accomplished, the true beauty of "Darker Days Ahead" is likely to humble you. It is the first album that is truly a reflection of the band's name, and it sets a formidable precedent for albums to come, should Tragedy continue to explore this newfound musical territory.


Download: No Cemeteries Here, The Grim Infinite, Darker Days Ahead, To Earth Like Dust
For the fans of: early At the Gates, early In Flames, Dismember, His Hero Is Gone
Listen: MySpace

Release date 08.05.2012
Tragedy Records

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