Damage Uncontrolled 

The death, birth, and re-death of hardcore’s Tragedy

Pull up a stool. We’re going to talk about how Black Sabbath breathed new life into the hardcore gestalt, how one Memphis band restored terrifying power to the genre, and how, even though that band is gone, the creative forces that harnessed the Apocalypse and channeled it into two of the most powerful documents of hardcore in the late ’90s are alive and well and living in Portland.

As we invoke the name of Sabbath in the same sentence as hardcore, please take a minute to appreciate how scary these Birmingham maulers were back in the day, especially stacked alongside their main competitors for the stoner record-buying dollar, Led Zeppelin. Certain of the songs in the Sabbath catalogue have since been ground into FM dust through overplaying, but the doomy majesty of “Hand of Doom” still holds up against practically anything. Just try to imagine what it must have sounded like, for the first time, to someone whose darkest pleasure had previously been “The Lemon Song.”

Most punks didn’t really start copping to metal influences until roughly the time that metal bands started playing up the punk skeletons in their spandex closets—the mid-’90s, maybe slightly before. But by that time the evidence was everywhere. Certainly in the Bay Area, where bands like eldopa (later renamed 1332) wore their Sabbathisms like badges of honor.

In Memphis, bands like Copout began calling the music “murdercore,” murderously fast, yes, but also heavy, dark and maggoty with the metal-tinged rot of things to come. And Copout begat His Hero is Gone, who first caught the ear of many a soap-dodgin’ crusty with The Dead of Night in Eight Movements, their debut EP on San Francisco’s Prank Records.

And then came the revelations: His Hero Is Gone followed up on the promise of The Dead of Night in Eight Movements with another record on Prank, the Fifteen Counts of Arson 12-inch, the one that really made connoisseurs of damage sit up and take notice. Taken all at once, Thirteen Counts was, and still is, a really terrifying experience. From the opening barrage to the purulent symphony of the closing track, “The End Result of 11 Months in the Mental Hospital,” the record doesn’t give up a single yard of bloodied soil.

Monuments to Thieves came next, with all the pieces solidly in place: charged lyrics; guttural death-bellowing that stopped admirably short of Cookie Monster comedy; down-tuned guitars that howled and buzzed like hydrant-sized hornets trying to find their way out of an empty oil tanker; songs that alternated bruising dirge with banzai thrash and all nestled neatly together like the layers of a Russian painted doll.

One more 12-inch and a couple EP sides later, and that was it. His Hero Is Gone imploded quietly last year, taking an equally captivating side project, Deathreat, with it—the light that burns twice as bright, etc., etc. But with three of four HHIG members relocated to Portland and playing in a new band, Tragedy, fans of that murder sound can start rejoicing again. #

Tragedy plays the Boys and Girls Club this Friday with Maha MaWaldi, Giant Among Jockeys and Tempest 84. All-ages. 9 PM. $3.

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