September 10, 2018

Tragedy – Fury

By Craig Hayes. Crust punk titans Tragedy are one of the most revered bands around, and that was recently reaffirmed when the Portland, Oregon-based group’s new EP, Fury, suddenly appeared on Bandcamp. Fury’s arrival was greeted with almost rapturous fervour
By Craig Hayes.

Crust punk titans Tragedy are one of the most revered bands around, and that was recently reaffirmed when the Portland, Oregon-based group’s new EP, Fury, suddenly appeared on Bandcamp. Fury’s arrival was greeted with almost rapturous fervour by diehard fans, myself included, and that wasn’t any kind of overreaction. Tragedy’s music is colossal, concussive, and deeply authentic, and it’s been six long years since the band’s last vitriolic release, 2012’s Darker Days Ahead.

Tragedy’s breakneck, self-titled debut was released in 2000, and the LP was instantly (and rightly) hailed as a crust punk classic. However, Tragedy’s backstory also includes a very important introductory chapter. Tragedy features members who also played in the much-admired crust band His Hero Is Gone, and the sledgehammering noise that band made (before they disbanded in 1999) has had an incalculable influence on the world of thickset punk and metal.

His Hero Is Gone took the brawnier/crustier strain of punk that UK bands like Amebix, Antisect, and Hellbastard had formulated in the 1980s and made it bigger, badder, and even swampier. The band added heftier guitars and distortion, and a neck-wrecking amount of oomph, and that set the template for an entire generation of heavyweight crust bands.

Tragedy have unquestionably carried that tradition on. Their stentorian music has proven to be equally influential, and they've played in front of appreciative audiences the world over. However, Tragedy aren’t only famed for making high-powered music.

The band’s always known for being staunchly DIY and operating well outside the usual ‘music biz’ networks. Tragedy have also shown a complete aversion to social media and online marketing –– so much so that a few hardcore fans will no doubt protest about the band turning up on a platform like Bandcamp.

Appearing on Bandcamp doesn’t radically alter Tragedy’s DIY aesthetic though. If anything, Bandcamp has revolutionised the way underground bands and fans can connect without the need for hyped-up web campaigning. That suits Tragedy’s agenda, which has seen the band self-release their own records, avoid interviews, and deliberately sidestep the grinding wheels of the publicity machine.

In doing all that, Tragedy have become “folk heroes” within the contemporary punk underground. And there’s still a strong element of mystery to the Tragedy mythos, even if the group’s members happen to play in scores of other well-known and well-regarded punk bands.

Tragedy 2013. Photos by Carmelo Española.

Tragedy utilising Bandcamp means that tracking down a copy of Fury is that much easier –– and FYI: any punk fan worth their salt should purchase a copy forthwith. Produced by Portland heavyweight music wizard Billy Anderson, Fury features six tracks bursting with belligerent rage. The EP’s running time barely hits the 17-minute mark, but that’s more than enough time to appreciate that no one channels mind-crushing hostility quite like Tragedy.

Fury’s first track, “Leviathan”, roars out of the gate with thundering guitars, guttural barks, and crashing bass and drums. Stampeding hooks are scattered throughout, snagging you and dragging you along, and by the time second track “Enter the Void” kicks in, it’s clear that Tragedy haven’t lost one iota of their passion or potency.

In fact, guitarist/vocalist Todd Burdette, bassist/vocalist Billy Davis, guitarist Yannick Lorrain, and drummer Paul Burdette sound like they’re ready to riot. I’m guessing the band have been inspired by the overwhelming number of end-times headlines that seem to greet us every day. But, speculation aside, it’s simply magnificent to hear the band still sounding so fired up after so many years in the punk rock trenches.

Fans hankering for Tragedy to return to their feral and ferocious roots will be thrilled that tracks like “Kick and Scream” and “Fury” are speedier and more overtly unhinged than the mid-tempo (albeit still savage) tracks on Darker Days Ahead. Ripping guitars and pick-sliding galore cut through Fury’s murky mix, and scorching leads and fist-raising, shout-along choruses arrive with a palpable sense of urgency throughout the EP.

Throttling dirges are trampled by hurtling hardcore on Fury, and the EP’s final tracks, “Swallow the Pill” and “A Life Entombed”, underscore Tragedy’s ability to craft dark and blistering melodies that reflect shattered dreams, nightmare realities, and endless frustrations.

In that sense, with the world in turmoil and anxieties at an all-time high, there’s never been a better time for Tragedy to return. The band bring hope, and relief, delivered in a purging/surging rush of ear-splitting punk, backed by exorcising howls.

Over the years, countless raucous bands have tried to copy the most ferocious elements from Tragedy’s formidable playbook. However, as Fury proves, yet again, few bands exhibit Tragedy’s talent for making primal rage manifest. Even fewer bands can cast out anger with the sheer intensity of Tragedy’s cathartic anthems. And Fury adds six more reasons to stand in fucking awe of Tragedy’s intimidating discography.

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