[CRUST PUNK] Tragedy is justly revered the world over for its dense and crepuscular take on crust punk, but an album-length masterpiece has eluded this staunchly DIY Portland quartet since its 2000 inception. Until now. With Darker Days Ahead, its long-awaited fourth LP, Tragedy messes with its own formula and makes sinister magic in the process.

By trading its standard D-beat fleetness for a measured and metallic plod, Tragedy is reborn on Darker Days Ahead as a more dynamic and expansive outfit. The album is just as bleak and blackened as anything in the band's back catalog, but for the first time, Tragedy has crafted a work that breathes, swivels and swirls, and it is not only intense and punishing but creepily pretty as well.

Undeniably indebted to the dread visions and scabrous riffage of prime Amebix, Tragedy sounds impossibly huge and menacing in 2012, like there are 30 guys in the band, or like it's not even a band at all anymore but a blood-spattered locomotive making its slow and ineluctable way through smoke-choked tunnels and over crumbling mountains.

It's a captivating listen with a narrative shape: the album's sequencing fashions the nine blasts of crusty metal into a sonic story of post-apocalyptic ruin, as gruff dirges give way to meditative interludes before the whole lumbering, fire-breathing thing takes off into a panicked gallop. Which might all sound a bit hyperbolic, especially since this is a slightly more refined Tragedy we're talking about here, but listen: That's the end of everything you hear in the distance. That's the kind of thing we need flowery language for, and it's the sort of sublimity Tragedy has finally summoned.

SEE IT: Tragedy plays the Know on Thursday, May 24, with Stoneburner and Spectral Tombs. 8 pm. Cover. 21+.