Filling in the void
Georgia has produced some fairly impressive sludge metal acts over the years – most notably Mastodon, Kylesa and Baroness. But, while all three bands mentioned helped found Georgia’s impressive underground scene, it’s fair to say that, over time, they’ve all progressed and evolved and have well and truly moved on beyond their primitive sludge metal origins. Not surprisingly, their absence has created a void in the scene, and one that Savannah based trio Black Tusk are more than eager to fill.
Despite having quite a few releases under their belts (most notably 2005’s Wrecked Signal Records When Kingdoms Fall E.P. and 2008’s Passage Through Purgatory full-length release through Hyperrealist Records), it wasn’t until Black Tusk signed to Relapse Records and released their Taste the Sin album in 2010 that people took notice of their huge and heavy sounds. Following on from the modest success of their last release, Black Tusk (who comprise of guitarist/vocalist Andrew Fidler, bassist/vocalist Jonathan Athon and drummer/vocalist James May) returned to the studio with legendary producer/engineer Jack Endino (Nirvana, High on Fire, Soundgarden, etc...) to emerge with their third full-length effort Set the Dial.
The band gets the album off to a thumping start with the rather short instrumental Brewing the Storm, which showcases their ability to deal out some heavy riffs that not only get the blood pumping, but builds up to a climatic finish that befits the song’s title.
With the intro drawing to a fade, the band launch into Bring Me Darkness, which is no less rocking than the opener, but with an added aggression with the introduction of the three vocalists. Song structure wise, Black Tusk have made a concerted effort to stay away from anything too progressive or complicated. Instead, the band relies solely on simple riff structures, volume and aggression to get their message across.
Ender of All ups the ante in terms of aggression over the former track, but also showcases the band’s ability to weave some textures into the song structures aside from delivering pulverising riff after riff, while Mass Devotion starts off with a captivating doom-like atmospheric opening riff, before the band step things up a gear with its stomping groove.
Carved in Stone, This Time is Divine, and Growing Horns are fairly straightforward and upbeat rockers compared to most of the tracks on the album, and perhaps better suited to the live stage than in the studio, while the title track Set the Dial to Your Doom is a blend of stoner rock, sludge metal, and hardcore punk, and without a doubt one of the album’s stand out cuts.
The instrumental Resistor is one of the album’s more daring and exploratory tracks where the band step outside their comfort zone to try their hand at something a little more intricate and progressive (which certainly isn’t a bad thing at all I might add), while Crossroads and Thunder closes the album out in a grooving stoner rock manner – but with Black Tusk’s own primitive touch.
Black Tusk isn’t about to win any awards for adding something new to the sludge metal scene on Set the Dial. But on the strength of their latest album, Set the Dial will stand as the band’s most consistent and best sounding release to date, and the kind of release that will win over existing fans in no time.
(Relapse Records/Riot! Entertainment)