Savannah, Georgia has brought forth some of the nastiest and dirtiest sludge bands in recent years. The burly men from Black Tusk are no exception and have now released their fourth album in their 11 year existence, it’s a scorcher for sure.
By now the band are doing a seemingly endless tour in promotion of this new album, which carries the powerful title Pillars Of Ash. The record is out on Relapse and has some stunning artwork going on by none other than Jeremy Hush (Skeletonwitch, Rwake). Joel Grind from Toxic Holocaust took care of the boards. This record is also the last one with recordings of Jonathan Athon on vocals and bass, who sadly passed away in 2014 after a motorcycle accident.
That makes this an odd record to write about. On the one hand it’s a brutal punked-out bit of sludge that deals with heavy topics, but on the other it’s a testament to a lost brother. For this band of friends, it must have been a hard decision as to what to do with these finished vocal tracks of their lost buddy. To then go on and finish the album is worthy of praise and respect. To finish the album and make it awesome, that’s the best way to as far as I can judge.
The sound on Pillars Of Ash is full on, there’s no breaks on this machine that keeps chugging out riff and pounding rhythms to illuminate the barks of Athon. Nothing is held back by the musicians, with brutal lyrics that criticise the society and world we live in. The sound is massive and made to be played loud for sure.
But it’s not simply force that makes this a great record. Songs like Bleed On Your Knees, however venomous the lyrics may be, are very catchy. The melodic guitar play combined with the crushing build up allows you to
intensify all the anticipation to jump to the first words shouted by Athon. The mid-paced rhythm gives the whole thing a very punk rock vibe, but just a bit more dirty and grimy. It’s not as if the band is moving away from their familiar sound in any way and even though the record has been on the shelf for a while, the whole sound is crisp and exciting.
Take for example the fast paced Walk Among The Sky, which delivers a well-balanced formula of eerie, unnerving guitar lines and that swampy sound that sticks to you like hot tar. The warbled growl of Athon is fitted in neatly. The crunchy ‘Punkout’ is exactly what it pretends to be, an ode to the oldschol punk rock sound. The song, originally by Tank 18, is delivered in a way only Black Tusk could.
This record is great, but it’s also a celebration. It celebrates the life of a lost brother in a totally unique and befitting way. The impact of the loss is clear from this album. The band is currently touring, but also spreading the ashes on the road. It’s a beautiful thing and so purely rock ’n’ roll.
Scribed by: Guido Segers