Review: Tuskar ‘The Monolith Sessions’
Tuskar are a sludge two-piece from Milton Keynes, England. They’re one of those bands with one guitarist/vocalist plugged into multiple vintage amps belching out super-saturated fuzz coupled with ‘verbed out drums that sound utterly huge. The same set-up as bands like Pombagira, Holy Mountain or Dark Castle. For what seems like a restrictive set-up, the variety and scope of just those three bands show just how much can be done with it. Of course, there are plenty of numbingly repetitive, awfully boring two-piece doom/sludge bands who seem to think that good gear and volume makes up for everything else. Thankfully, Tuskar are awesome and like nothing I’ve ever heard from any sludge band, regardless of how many members they have.
First track The Tide starts in familiar territory with droning guitar, building drums and a live, almost demo quality, to the recording. But rather than opt for the obvious massive riff that goes on and on, after the first two and a half minutes of straining and crackling the band go for a doomy bludgeon, with distant yelling, before things burst open into a flurry of jarring rhythmic attacks. The rough and ready quality of the sound is like a high-quality bootleg and gives things a violent and visceral quality. None of your politely listenable heaviness – this is live and raging.
Odd structural and tempo switching leaves you unsure whether to bang your head or just get lost in the chaos. Full of energy and dynamic shifts, it shows how much can be done when a band, with even just two members, focuses on song writing and power rather than just riff after riff. The vocals consist of monotone yells and serve mostly as an additional texture to the sound, but the frenzied interplay between drums and guitar is nothing short of totally ripping. The sort of thrashing madness that makes you want to smash everything.
Fans of huge heft and heaviness who can handle new territory need to hear this. It’s one of those releases that remind you what it was like hearing the unheard styles of your favourite bands for the very first time…
Into The Sea sounds like a raging storm with thundering guitar, drums and the metallic sound of sparkling harmonics cutting through. It’s brutally heavy in that satisfying way, achieved by Tuskar being focused more on the sound, than worrying about the style in which they deliver it. And then things go all prog with some sort of early King Crimson freak out, before a huge neck-snapping riff complete with the rolling thunder of massive drum fills. Maybe it’s the song titles bringing it to mind, but this reminds me of the awesome power of Isis’ Oceanic.
The final track Beneath starts with stark and pounding ritualistic drums and discordant guitar stabs, before an unusual descending heavy riff that slows into bursts of drone. This sounds genuinely different, perhaps even progressive. The vocals are brought forward to be more than repeated yells and provide a welcome additional dynamic with a more realised and emotional delivery that calls to mind post-hardcore. Then once again Tuskar shoot off in a new direction, tight but chaotic, fast and firing. It’s properly heavy, but innovative. Not quirky or having fun trying to be different, it just sounds raging and hell bent on levelling the place in a totally new way. This band is more exciting than anything else calling itself Sludge or Doom right now. All those gear bands should take heed: the writing should always come first, and then play it like you mean it.
Why is this under 20 minutes though? I get that Tuskar have crammed more ideas into these three songs than most bands manage to stretch out across their entire careers, but still, I could do with at least twice as many songs! Fans of huge heft and heaviness who can handle new territory need to hear this. It’s one of those releases that remind you what it was like hearing the unheard styles of your favourite bands for the very first time.
Label: Riff Rock Records
Band Links: Facebook | Bandcamp | Instagram
Scribed by: Josuph Price