In November 2014 Jonathon Athon, lead singer & bass player for Black Tusk was hit while driving his motorcycle, he suffered massive brain damage & died later in a hospital.
A tragic event & one that would often see the end of a band but with his tracks complete the other members decided to finish the album. Not only as a tribute but as a showing of strength, Black Tusk are not finished & for 35 minutes they set about proving their dominance.
A mix of sludge, thrash & punk, (the band call themselves ‘swamp metal’) Pillars of Ash is aggression personified, pissed off vocals, dark & dirty riffs & drumming that will leave your ears ringing.
Unlike many other bands that fall under the whole sludge metal category, Black Tusk stand out for their more punkish elements. Songs sound raw but not in a bad production kind of way. Musically it conjures up images of small sweaty clubs packed to the rafters hidden away in the Bayou.
Each song is packed with riffs that will make you go weak at the knees & as soon as the album ends you’ll find yourself pressing play again. Refusing to be formulaic, the diversity throughout the album holds your attention with Bleed on Your Knees being a particular highlight.
That’s not to say the album is filled with hit after hit, a track or two (Black Tide) don’t hit the mark quite as well & are forgettable. You’ll find yourself skipping these once you’re familiar with the album overall.
Pillars of Ash for all its punk roots is still a heavy metal album at heart though with some storming head-banging tracks to really sink your teeth into. Inspiration from some of the big thrash metal bands is clear (Born of Strife has a little bit of Slayer about it) but it’s more of a gentle nod & not just straight up ripping them off.
Walk Among the Sky coming at the latter end of the album is worth multiple listens if only the subject matter (death reimagined) while Punkout shows of the bands punkier edge.
Levelling sees the album finish strongly leaving you with a nice sense of satisfaction & a need to hear more.
Full Track List:
1. God’s on Vacation
2. Desolation in Endless Times
3. Bleed on Your Knees
4. Born of Strife
5. Damned in the Ground
6. Beyond the Divide
7. Black Tide
8. Still Not Well
9. Walk Among the Sky
Black Tusk - Pillars of Ash (Relapse Records)