Since 2005, the trio that is Black Tusk from Savannah, Georgia has put out more records, EPs, and splits than I would like to list… roughly 14 titles through those various medians. The self proclaimed "Swamp Metal" high energy punk outfit will release their newest album Pillars of Ash January 29th, 2016. This, unfortunately, will be the last album with Jonathan Athon, who passed away in 2014, but whose bass recordings and vocals are still present on Pillars of Ash. Corey Barhorst has replaced Jonathan Athon on bass for live shows and will be on future records.
With this being the last album with all original and founding members present, my expectations were primed for a great release. This perception did not change as I experienced the album. The sound is unmatchable, a blend of sub genres in metal and punk that sounds unique, but all too familiar for Black Tusk enthusiasts. The crunch and sludge feel is undeniable, which is chiefly owed to the production and engineering that went into this creation. Of course, the musical aspect is incredible as well, as Black Tusk continues to create music that is a pleasant mix of a multitude of sub genres, where only listening and experiencing it can quantify this accusation.
The drumming is one of the key components that drive the definition and roots of this band. With a heavy dose of punk, this pillar is one of the signatures demonstrated while listening to any Black Tusk. The beats and rhythms are not new or creative to the point where the band is breaking new ground in that aspect, but without it, the traditional crust and attitude would be lacking. The same can be said for the guitar riffs. There are no hooks that will stick out for days, or solos you'll be wanting to replay or study, just a heavy wall of attitude that will blast the skin off your face every time you play it. The vocals are performed by all three members, and carry a unique sound. The variations and distinct sound from each member brings a uniform approach that will carry the listener away no matter what vocal preference or style is preferred. And lastly, the bass. In Jonathan Athon's final act, his presence is all the more meaningful. Heavy lines that lay the ground work for excellent transitions and embodied sound between the fellow members, while still being an animal all of its own.
When someone mentions Black Tusk, what image comes to mind? To me, an old, wet mattress under a bridge covered in mud, cigarettes, and garbage. Music that is crusty, dirty, and maybe old sounding, but still brings that attitude, risk, and emotion we all want. To be honest, this sound took me back to my roots and how I originally got into metal. Although I'm now more of a death metal guy, the gateway to my adolescence and years after were paved in punk/hardcore. It's a pleasant experience listening to Pillars of Ashes, and as it is with many life experiences, it's not really fun unless you get a little dirty in the process. Grab a cheap beer, have a smoke, and sit out in the sun shirtless to get the full effect of this swamp metal. Black Tusk. Pillars of Ash.