Call them crust punk, d-beat, metal, post-apocalyptic hardcore or whatever classification you can invent—Tragedy is simply one of the most brutal, damning bands out there. Not shocking when you consider these guys were also part of such iconic bands as His Hero is Gone, Severed Head of State, From Ashes Rise and now Nightfell. That’s an absolutely astounding resume that spans not only a chunk of history but also lays the foundation for a few genres. Tragedy may be crusty but you don’t have to wear Carhartt overalls and smell like a member of Inter Arma to enjoy their records. In fact, it’s quite the opposite, fans of almost every genre appreciate what these guys do. It’s pure, raw, unadulterated, unjudged and uncaring punk rock. And so for this week’s Retrospective, we’ll take a look back at their 2000 self-titled debut.
Tragedy was founded in 1995 when brothers Paul and Todd Burdette (of the monumental crossover punk/hardcore band His Hero is Gone), and Yannick Lorrain teamed up with Billy Davis (From Ashes Rise). They’d go on to develop a more mature and catastrophic sound than His Hero is Gone ever did. After five years, they released their first LP, known as either Tragedy or 001. By the time it hit its fourth pressing, the groundwork had been set: a band out of America was writing the most apocalyptic music on the planet without a care in the world for fame or even basic notoriety.
Tragedy is an unrelenting, thirty-three minutes of the rawest, uncut crust-punk you will ever hear in your life. The album opens with a panicked acoustic intro before slamming your head through a wall with “The Point of No Return.” From the first word, the listener will be ready to follow Tragedy into the melting sunset. Much like their second LP, Vengeance, Tragedy employs lyrical bridges between their tracks; the closing lyrics to “Point of No Return” (and they won’t have to burn the books / but no one reads them anyway) bleed straight into “Not Fucking Fodder,” a damning attack on elite American education institutions. “Never Knowing Peace” then unleashes rage on America’s obsession with warfare, and once again, Todd Burdette and Davis trade vocals urgently and with exasperation.
“Confessions of a Suicide Advocate” introduces what has since become a calling card for Tragedy—a call and response technique between the two guitars, produced so that they sound as if they are on opposite ends of a vacant, frozen earth. Did I mention that their drums sound like they made up of old oil barrels? As the song spirals out of control and towards the eventual apocalypse of the universe, the urgency hits a fury that wakes you up as if you poured a pot of coffee on your angsty soul. “Intermezzo No. 1” and “Intermezzo No. 2” combine to provide a brief interlude full of eerie piano lines, spoken word and wind whipping across a scorched tundra before “The Intolerable Weight” opens in swinging, drinking-song-style rhythm with a chorus of vocals screaming out, “Pressure to succeed! Pressure! Pressure to succeed! Depression!”
Side B opens with “You Are An Experiment,” in which Burdette and Davis vocalize their frustration with scientific developments being kept for the elite rather than distributed to the masses. “Products of a Cold War” follows in bitter and angry fashion. Again, Tragedy employs a very catchy melody and riff bucking the trend in their genre for simple wall of sound and indistinguishable voices. “With Empty Hands Extended” is perhaps the most head-nodding song on the album, with a pulsating rhythm keeping time as the vocals forge ahead creating a path for the drums to follow. After another brief interlude, the album closes with both “Tension Awaiting Imminent Collapse” (an apt description of Tragedy’s overall sound) and “Chemical Imbalance,” a seething critique of our society’s medicated happiness.
Whenever someone asks me who my favorite band is, I’m tempted to answer Tragedy. If you take the time to listen to their entire catalog, you can clearly see the development of music from crust-punk and post-hardcore to bands black/death metal, as Nightfell is classified. And every single album, split and 7″ in between absolutely kills—the band never loses focus. Whatever your interests, put on Tragedy and crank it up. You won’t be disappointed.