Monday, 11 January 2016

Black Tusk - "Pillars of Ash" (Album Review)

By: Richard Maw

Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 29/01/2016
Label:  Relapse Records


As per previous records, you get a kind of Southern sludge Motorhead: “God's On Vacation” roars out of your speakers and then “Desolation of Endless Times” just levels you. This is visceral stuff and has absolutely every needle in the red. Truly, the record form thereon in is pretty much unstoppable. To say that there is anything new here or any kind of left turn would be inaccurate. It is Black Tusk, more of the same; heads down and flat out.  The new era of Black Tusk should be celebrated as the band have chosen to push forwards after a most horrendous event. Their life force refuses to be dimmed, and this record is a shining example of grace under pressure and as fine a statement of intent as you will find.


“Pillars of Ash” CD//DD//LP track listing:

1). God’s on Vacation
2). Desolation in Endless Times
3). Bleed on Your Shoes
4). Born of Strife
5). Damned in the Ground
6). Beyond the Divide
7). Black Tide
8). Still not Well
9). Walk Among the Sky
10). Punkout
11). Leveling

The Review:

Black Tusk are a great band. A power trio of enormous power and life force. Tragically, of course, Athon- the bass player and co-vocalist died after a motorcycle accident back in 2014. This record, and the band's prior albums, stands as testament to his life in music and what he stood for. Uncompromising rock and roll at maximum volume is contained herein.

There is eleven tracks on offer here. All to the point, raucous and so full of joie de vivre. Having seen them in London on Athon's last visit to these shores, I knew that live they took no prisoners and just played full on and joyously.

As per previous records, you get a kind of Southern sludge Motorhead: “God's On Vacation” roars out of your speakers and then “Desolation of Endless Times” just levels you. This is visceral stuff and has absolutely every needle in the red. Truly, the record form thereon in is pretty much unstoppable. To say that there is anything new here or any kind of left turn would be inaccurate. It is Black Tusk, more of the same; heads down and flat out. They lack the commercial and progressive leanings of Mastodon, say, and are a very different proposition to fellow Savannah dwellers Baroness. They operate within their own niche; a combination of those bands, Kylesa and Motorhead.

There is no let up as “Born of Strife” pushes the tempo, threatening to veer out of control at any moment. “Damned in the Ground” is more measured, but still a hell of a noise. Riffs and pounding drums, screams and rumbling bass tones. Incredibly, the half way point of “Beyond The Divide” flies past as the album just relentlessly ploughs on through “Black Tide” and onwards. The production is excellent, by the way; live and raw sounding with real drums and guitars sounding like they were played through amps which were turned up to the max. “Still Not Well” turns out to be something of a highlight in the latter stages of the album, but honestly it is hard to pick stand outs. Generally, all the music here is great and all played with total commitment to the cause of making noisy rock and roll. It is perhaps fair to say that there are no huge hooks, no truly memorable melodies. Instead you get an approach, and attitude and a sound that is uniform and consistent throughout.

By the time of the hardcore inflected “Walk Among The Sky” and “Punk Out” the record is drawing to a close and it is fair to say that it has clipped past at a fast rate. “Leveling” closes proceedings and marks the end of an era for the band. With Athon gone, the band press on with a new man on bass and vocals. The new era of Black Tusk should be celebrated as the band have chosen to push forwards after a most horrendous event. Their life force refuses to be dimmed, and this record is a shining example of grace under pressure and as fine a statement of intent as you will find. 2016 is off to a flying musical start. 


“Pillars of Ash” is available here

FFO: Kylesa, Mastodon, Baroness, High on Fire

Band info: bandcamp | facebook

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