Tragedy - Darker Days Ahead

Posted on Thursday, October 11, 2012

This is the fourth full-length from Crust Punk legends Tragedy, and it marks something of a new direction for the band -or it would, if they put out an album often enough to have a destination. A better way to describe it might be to say that the focus of this one is different. Darker Days Ahead showcases Tragedy’s mastery of brooding, ominous Crust, to a point that devotees of the ripping D-beat Punk on sophomore effort Vengeance might find disappointing. The production is clear and muscular, and Todd can still growl with the best of them (second vocalist Billy, of course, always sounds like a chain-smoking Muppet), but nearly all the tracks are content to trudge along at a healthy mid-tempo. In a lot of ways this is similar to Amebix, in that the structures are simple, generally with little variation beyond a couple of riffs, but try to create a distinct feel and space for each song. A few, such as opener “No Cemeteries Here” and the title track feature sparse synth parts in clear imitation of that venerable band; they compliment the bleak riffing so well that I actually wish they had used more. Others, like “Close at Hand,” have filthy, oppressive guitar parts that wouldn’t sound all that out of place in the right Black or Death Metal band. Standout track “Power Fades” channels early British Hardcore and Motorhead in a chorus shout-along that at first seems surprisingly uncharacteristic, but Tragedy manage to pull it off and it fits in well as a build-up to the final song.
The overall lack of dynamics, however, is the major flaw of this album. There are really only a few fast or slow parts, and while the songs don’t all sound the same, the fact remains that they’re all about the same tempo, about the whole time. This is counteracted in part by being rather short, so it isn’t long enough to drag on. But one of the best things about older Tragedy was that it would blend dark, D-beat Hardcore with heavier, more imposing Crust riffing. By focusing on the latter, and starting to show stronger influence from godfathers Amebix, Tragedy have crafted their most Metallic, and perhaps all-around darkest, album to date; but in abandoning the D-beat have left behind a big part of what made them genre favorites.
It’s unlikely that most fans will prefer this to the much-beloved self-titled LP (still my personal favorite) or the aforementioned Vengeance, and the uniform speed is a clear hindrance. But the apocalyptic atmosphere and powerful riffing keep Darker Days Ahead above water, and overall this is a solid effort that places Tragedy among the growing camp of the Crust heavyweights drifting in a more Metallic direction (such as Wolfbrigade and Hellshock). That’s a good thing -assuming that they put out another album in four or five years.
[We would like to thank OnlyInDeath for this excellent guest review. -Editor]

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