Album Review: BLACK TUSK T.C.B.T.
The Savannah, Georgia sludge trio Black Tusk released Pillars Of Ash in 2016, their last record to feature Jonathan Athon, who was killed in a motorcycle accident. They decided to carry on, adding longtime friend Corey Barhorst (Kylesa) to the lineup on bass. T.C.B.T. is the band's fifth full-length.
After going through such a tragic loss, Black Tusk persevered, making T.C.B.T. (short for “Taking Care of Black Tusk”) an apt album title. The band says, “Life is short, finish what you start and mean what you do. Not everyone does and not everyone gets to. Live your life; no regrets.” That ethos is evident when you listen to T.C.B.T.
The album begins with the trippy and ominous spoken word intro “A Perfect View of Absolutely Nothing” before the metal kicks in with “Closed Eye.” One of the unique things about Black Tusk is all three members contribute vocals. There are raspy, low pitched singsong vocals along with higher-pitched yells. Depending on who is singing, it can give a track a metal or punk vibe.
Though the vocals vary from song to song, one thing that's consistent throughout is the killer riffs. Andrew Fidler provides a seemingly endless supply of memorable riffage that burrows their way into the listener's cortex.
Black Tusk also like the bass nice and high in the mix. Barhorst is front and center during the intro to “Lab Rat” and holds down the bottom end with skill and creativity. Drummer James May delivers one of his strongest performances to-date. Though most of the songs are driving, uptempo sludge, songs like “Scalped” provide somewhat of a respite, with more moderate and less dense sections. They also slow down the tempo to a deliberate doomy pace and incorporate a cinematic ending, making it one of the record's more varied numbers.
One of Black Tusk's strong suits is the ability to construct songs that are seemingly chaotic and raw, but also extremely catchy and memorable. Several tracks on T.C.B.T. fit that description, none more than “Ill At Ease,” one of the album's best songs. Another way Black Tusk vary things is with song lengths. They have streamlined and focused songs like the barely two minute “Orange Red Dead” and “Never Ending Daymare” alongside lengthier and more complex tracks such as the nearly five minute “Rest With The Dead.”
While many albums are front-loaded with the best songs, this is consistent from front to back. Closer “Burn the Stars” ends things on a strong note, a rousing closer with some of the most passionate vocals on the album. Black Tusk isn't flashy, but they take care of business, fulfilling the mission of T.C.B.T.