• Black Tusk – Pillars Of Ash

    Black Tusk – Pillars Of Ash
    Released by: Relapse Records
    Released on: January 29thh, 2016.
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    Black Tusk’s bass player, Jonathan Athon, was killed in a motorcycle accident in 2014 and this latest release from the band he helped form is the last recordings he contributed to. Produced by Joel Grind of Toxic Holocaust (he also contributes a bit of guitar work on Born Of Strife), Pillars Of Ash is as heavy and powerful as anything the Georgia based trio have released thus far and a fitting tribute to their late band member.

    God’s On Vacation kicks the album off right, some amazing drum work from James May pound you in the face right from the start as Andrew Fidler’s crazed and crunchy, riff heavy guitar work settles into a thrashy groove. It’s a goddamn fantastic way to open the record and it segues perfectly into the second track, Desolation Of Endless Times, a two and a half minute long barrage of speedy sludge with the band’s punk origins peeking through in spots. The vocals are particularly insane here as well, delivered with intensity and power.

    The guitar work that opens Bleed On Your Knees starts off reasonably calm, the drums getting a bit louder and more intense in the mix, and twenty or thirty seconds in the band hits a quick tempo, but not too quick a tempo. Then that changes and things speed up, slow down, get sludgy and doomy and then fast again and yeah, this track is eclectic and all over the place, a fairly unpredictable, angry and antagonistic number and a definite stand out here. Born Of Strife shows Grind’s influence right from the get-go, but it definitely retains Black Tusk’s signature sound, mixing elements of thrash and punk rock and ugly, dirty, sweaty, swampy sludge all at the same time. More manic, off the hook drumming here helps to keep this one appropriately weird sounding in the best possible way.

    Damned In The Ground mixes up elements of Slayer, D.R.I. and maybe Napalm Death all in one beautifully heavy stew while Beyond The Divide gives us more of the same really intense genre mixing crossover style metal that these guys play so damn well. Black Tide turns things up a bit in terms of bringing dark and heavy to the forefront, it’s definitely got a more tortured and ominous sound than some of the other material here. It’s guttural and fierce and played with the right mix of aggression and technical proficiency.

    Still Not Well has a weird tempo to it, it’s heavy but kind of bouncy at the same time, the guitars are all over the place and the dueling vocals give it a really erratic sound, but as erratic as it is, it’s also super catchy and the power of the riffing here makes it really easy to get into. That same unpredictable playing is a big part of Walk Among The Sky as well, where the band shift gears a few times throughout its four minute running time, hitting some almost staccato sounding guitar chunks overtop of some fast, tight work from the rhythm section. This one has a nice slide to it, there’s a very definite groove to the track that’ll get stuck in your craw in a big way.

    Bringing the album closer to the finish line, we get Punk Out, the shortest track on the record at just over two minutes. It’s a straight up hardcore track, a nasty super fast punk track that sounds just as pissed off as it should and again, it shows the band’s roots in a big way. Leveling, the album’s big finish, also features some pretty fantastic crossover style playing and vocals, mixing up thrash and punk and metal and hardcore into a big ol’ mess of awesome.

    Athon is gone but Black Tusk are carrying on with Corey Barhorst in his place, and that’s only a good thing. This band has still got so much potential it would have been wrong for them to call it quits even with a founding member gone. As a final tribute to Athon, Pillars Of Ash is a moving piece of work, and as a record judge on its own merits, it’s an absolute killer from start to finish.