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Tragedy in Hope - Smile at Death

Tragedy in Hope
Smile at Death
by Gary Hernandez at 04 December 2019, 11:50 AM

TRAGEDY IN HOPE is a Black Metal project of Sasha Giller based out of St. Petersburg, Russia and has been performing since 2017. In 2018, Sasha released his first full-length album, and on November 22, 2019 he released an EP entitled “Smile at Death.” The band is often categorized as Symphonic Black Metal, but I’m thinking not. There are certainly embellishments of synthesizers here and there, but “Smile in Death” is largely characterized by all the signatures of solid Black Metal. But then again, categories are just boxes and no one really cares so long as the band delivers. TRAGEDY IN HOPE delivers.

Smile in Death” comprises four tracks including one instrumental and spans just under 13 minutes. Thematically, the album stays true to the band’s name with each song providing further testimony that the realities of life are dark enough to drain the light from even the greatest of joys. As Sasha proclaims in “Pierce the Heavens”: “Halley's tail seems so pale / Compare to void inside us / An ember of joy smolders.”

The album starts with “Alone in the Woods,” a short, atmospheric number consisting of synth, keyboards, and someone wailing their eyes out . . . in the woods . . . alone. Track two, “Smile at Death” shifts the album into high gear by laying down ten seconds of viscous riffs before Sasha kicks in with screech level vocals that are as frenetic as they are raw. The track offers enough variety in its composition to reveal that Sasha is not only a talented guitarist but an excellent bassist as well. He also has an ear for orchestrations as he folds in multiple layers of syths. The production is too lo-fi to really determine how good he is on the drums, but they seem to hold up.

Of the tracks that have lyrics, “Pierce the Heavens” is the most distinct in that reflects on the life, the universe, and everything from a meta perspective as opposed to a traditional storyline. Sasha treats us to some vocal variations as he switches from screeching to what I am guessing his normal, clear tone. Underlying synths give the heavy riffs and furious drumming additional depth, and there are several musical movements throughout the track. All these components add to the rich, philosophical texture of the piece.

The final track, “Grim Love Story,” shifts from the overtly philosophical back to a narrative. As a curious note, each track is progressively longer than the last, so the final track is the longest on the album. Even so, it seems to begin in mid-track. I had to hit replay a few times to make sure my system wasn’t malfunctioning. I won’t spoil the plot, but right at the point when the lyrics are on the cusp of drawing two narrative threads together, the song ends as abruptly as it began, leaving the listener to come their own conclusion as to meaning of the final line and the outcome of the story.

All together, “Alone in the Woods” is a nice combination of concept album (in that is has a centralizing theme) and a mega-blast of Black Metal. Sahsa is an exceptional musician and songwriter. The EP makes you think, even if it isn’t the most pleasant of thoughts, and that’s probably the point. Some good stuff out of Russia with this one. TRAGEDY IN HOPE is a project to keep your eyes on.

Songwriting: 8
Musicianship: 7
Memorability: 6
Production: 6

3 Star Rating

1. Alone in the Woods
2. Smile at Death
3. Pierce the Heavens
4. Grim Love Story
Sasha Giller – All Instruments, Vocals
Record Label: Independent


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Edited 02 December 2022

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