Review: Tuskar ‘Matriarch’

Without really realising it I had mentally filed Tuskar as a ‘fun live, sick riffing’ band, while certainly true, it did perhaps do them a disservice, leaving no room for ‘depth’ to their music. With this first full-length album, the duo makes my oversight plain. Sure, the swinging grooves, thrashy drive, sludgy churn, and outright Conanism of tone are still to be heard, but there is a lot more going on here than a set of party bangers.

Tuskar 'Matriarch'

The brooding patience of the title track, Matriarch, which opens the record is declarative in this more thoughtful mode, and after a long fade sets up the neck-snapping attack of To The Sky. The two-piece interplay that makes Tuskar such a force live is fully on show, the distinctive guitar flourishes set off against heavy-duty crunch. There is perhaps more melody coming through in the vocals than on previous recordings, and this could be where my mind is reaching for Yob comparisons. But it’s not quite Yob that this is reminding me of, there’s a better point of reference that is yet to show itself…

And after the strangely delicate The Trees, The Trees, The Trees (an interlude?) at last it lands – Taint. The song of theirs that feels particularly pertinent is The Idol/The Memory but now that I’ve made the link, this seems like a useful key to where Tuskar are coming from. The balance of straight-ahead chug and groove, thrash-flavoured riffs, melodic elements in the vocals, and the guitar ornamentation allows them to hit a jagged rhythm that keeps the listener nodding and throwing horns while giving space for progression and experimentation. Witness Black Cobra-esque stormer Into The Sea which noodles its way into ecstatic figures before a menacing slowdown.

The two-piece interplay that makes Tuskar such a force live is fully on show…

There is even a bit of emotive balladry with Shame, the vocals over the epic chord sequence sound almost like Harvey Milk in their blown-out and exposed rawness. For me, this one does get a bit soggy, the only part of Matriarch where it seems like experimentation has not quite paid off. Fortunately, Grave is there to close out the album in a doomed trudge and bury us all in thunderous drums and tonal excess.

On first listen to Matriarch, I noticed some resistance in myself, somehow this isn’t what I wanted from Tuskar. God forbid that they should ‘grow as a band’! These songs are far more fraught and emotive than I was prepared for. Of course, they can do what they like with their sound, and to hear Tuskar build on the heavy-but-nuanced doom of 2018s The Tide, Beneath, The Wall is a joy.

They seem to be sussing out new elements to add to their attack, and ultimately this may add up to another great UK underground band that defies easy categories. This is where Taint feels right as a connection – they too married attack, reflection, and a distinctive song-writing approach with the fire and passion of a great live band, making something that stood out as its own thing. More please!

Label: Church Road Records
Band Links: Facebook | Bandcamp | Instagram

Scribed by: Harry Holmes