If you’re old enough to remember the disco era, only one thing was for sure; the Bee Gees were on the disco side, and metal was on the other, and never the twain shall meet. But in this “world of fools breaking us down/When they all should let us be,” the miraculous has occurred. The NYC metal band Tragedy has fearlessly crossed the great divide, offering up metallic versions of the Brothers Gibb’s disco classics, and making possible a disco-metal rapprochement that has been both decades overdue and seemingly impossible.
Tragedy exploded upon the scene, causing disco balls to implode and Disco Mountain to collapse in a deadly avalanche with 2008’s We Rock Sweet Balls and Can Do No Wrong (All Metal Tribute to the Bee Gees). Sacrilegious? For damn sure. It is said that Barry Gibb fell into a coma caused by Saturday Night Fever (the first case in over 30 years) upon first hearing the record, and that when he came out of said coma his first act was to seize a scalpel and rush from the hospital, his Aussie ass showing through his hospital gown for all to see, in a search and destroy mission for the godless metal apostates.
But Tragedy were onto something. The translation from disco to metal worked, and worked well, with some songs (“Stayin’ Alive”) sounding like revved up and metal-plated reproductions of their originals, while on other tracks they take liberties. But all of their versions work, and do indeed rock balls, thanks to the lead vocals, keyboards, and lead cowbell of Disco Mountain Man; the lead vocals, lead back-up vocals, and lead lead (sic) guitar of Mo’ Royce Peterson; the bass, lead vocals, and backing vocals of Andy Gibbous Waning; the lead guitar and backing vocals of Garry Bibb; the drums and backing vocals of The Lord Gibbeth; and the talents of Lance, towel boy and complete idiot.
It’s easy to write off Tragedy as a joke band, but you’d be making a big mistake; their takes on sundry Bee Gees classics are hair metal at its best, and you’ll be amazed at how seamlessly they’ve manage to convert the Bee Gees to metal. Throw in great Bee Gees-quality vocals, lots of cool guitar, and a crack rhythm section, and you’ll find yourself wondering why nobody thought to do this before. And on some of their covers they go way, way out; “You Should Be Dancing” hews to the party line until the song’s midsection, when Disco Mountain Man goes into a monologue that is both hilarious and satanic (“the women cried out/The men cried tears of blood and semen”) and features a hair-raising section on disco babies that has nothing whatsoever to do with the Bee Gees’ original (“These are some very sick babies/So sick that they’re dead/And evil”) except that Satan finally shows up to instruct the babies to “dance, dance” before the band shuts things down with the riff from “Iron Man.”
As mentioned previously, “Stayin’ Alive” is straight up, but mucho cool, while ”Jive Talkin” takes scads of liberties, and reminds me a lot of classic Guns ‘n Roses. These guys can sing, and harmonize, and they even throw in some female vocalists to further liven things up. You can dance to these songs, great guitar solos and all—the one on “Jive Talkin’” blows me away—and not all of their covers are on the fast side. “How Deep Is Your Love” is a power ballad in the great power ballad tradition, with tremendous vocals that keep the lyrical absurdity (“We belong to you and me”) intact and reach those ball-squeezing high notes that made the Bee Gees the Castrati of Disco.
“Night Fever” opens with a growing barrage and lots of high-pitched vocals, and sounds nothing like its original. Only the chorus gives away the game, while “Shadow Dancing” is given the full metal jacket treatment, complete with great guitar, and also sounds very little like the Bee Gees version. Which isn’t to say it’s not great; guitars shred, vocals reach the stratosphere, and the song may not be disco but it keeps its funk. As for “More Than a Woman,” it’s another almost straight up cover, with zooming guitars and more great ear-piercing vocals, and I love it, especially when the female vocalists join in and everybody goes gung ho at the end.
“Too Much Heaven” is a stroke of brilliance; Tragedy opens the song with the monumental riff from Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir,” then seamlessly blends it into the Bee Gees’ original. That said, they’re faithful to the choruses, in which the Brothers G are waiting in line for love, which is such a beautiful thing, but nobody gets enough of the stuff even if it is as high as a mountain. I can’t stress it enough; these guys can hit those Mt. Everest high notes that made the Bee Gees famous, and they can do it while cranking out a Led Zep riff that leads to one really cool guitar solo. “Tragedy” sounds like a really catchy pop metal tune, with a recurring hook so sharp you could go fishing with it and a great chorus that boasts vocals that throw a rope around the moon. As for “Our Love—Don’t Throw It Away,” it starts on an easy listening note, complete with saccharine piano and a guitar so sensitive it probably cries at movies where the dog dies, only to segue with a Disco Mountain Man scream into a big bad thing with a Wunderbar chorus. And it comes complete with a specfuckingtacular guitar solo that takes the song out on a maniacal note.
Okay, so maybe Tragedy is a joke band. But as they proved on 2011’s Humbled by Our Greatness (with its stellar versions of “Disco Inferno” and “You Make Me Feel Like Dancing”); 2013’s transcendent Death to False Disco (recommended track: the AC/DC-inspired “Kc/dc and the Sunshine Band”); and 2015’s The Solo Albums—on which they expand their horizons to cover non-disco songs such as “Take Me Home Country Roads” and “MacArthur Park”—Tragedy can do it all, and blow you away in the process. They met the discofied Bee Gees head on and not only pulled it off, but emerged triumphant. Which is why I love them so, and why Barry Gibbs is still out there somewhere, bare-assed and blue in the face, looking to stick the scalpel in. Tragedy, you’ve been forewarned.
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