Tragedy is back with soaring melodies, throaty bellows, and apocalyptic doom– and while they’re brand of melodic crust punk may not be for everybody, those with the proper predispositions will be awed. Darker Days Ahead is a testament to the importance of music outside the mainstream, a work of art that epitomizes words like ‘underground’ and ‘independent.’ Tragedy may not be outside the realms of accessibility in some circles, and to be fair, a large part of their sound roams outside the walls of punk rock and into the world of heavy metal, but their independent spirit and basic, fundamental musical groundings make them into something of a latter day Fugazi. No internet presence, no labels, no rules; this is the purity we always talk about wanting in punk rock; that feeling of open-wound-honesty– an artist burning the veil and letting the listener see the world without pretense or censorship. This is that record, and even without it sounding like much of the music that inhabits the scene to day, it undoubtedly begs to be listened to.
Having four full-lengths released before Darker Days Ahead, Tragedy is anything but a newcomer. But while mainstream punk culture remains fairly oblivious to both their existence and importance, their sound remains a revelation to the converted. Tragedy’s roots lay in the sound of Discharge and hardcore, but heavier. Todd Burdette provides a deep growl that sounds something like years of rage, injustice, and hatred being rewarded with an appropriately threatening voice. While atypical for hardcore, and perhaps against its core tenets, the growling allows the voice to become another instrument, making the music an indecipherable message you have to feel to unlock.
Darker Days Ahead succeeds because of the music though, and not just their DIY ethics, and to be sure, the album is filled with worthwhile songs that’ll have your heart pumping venom in no time. Album opener, “No Cemeteries Here,” kicks off the album with all the heaviness one would expect, with dark melodies and an awesome acoustic interlude. “Close At Hand” features some of my favorite instrumental work, which includes a magnificent bass line and some seriously powerful guitar leads. But to single out any song’s fretwork on Darker Days Ahead is a disservice, for every song on this album has at least one memorable riff. Final track, “To Earth Like Dust” is another standout, complete with minor melodies and a catchy, despite being growled, verse that is driven by it’s galloping rhythm.
The best thing that can be said about Darker Days Ahead is that it’s another Tragedy album. It’s a little slower, more experimental, but ultimately it’s still Tragedy. It’s loud, ferocious, and technically competent. It straddles genres like it was born to confound audiences. It’s punk rock for the darkest days of our lives, where the world finally closes in on us and we’re left powerless–screaming, clawing, hating– using up our last moments as violently as possible. That’s Tragedy. That’s catharsis.