Pillars of Ash is the fifth album from Savannah, Georgia metal band Black Tusk. Released via Relapse Record the band’s latest effort combines elements of heavy metal, sludge and hard-core punk creating their own blend of what the band calls “Swamp metal”.
Despite the filth encrusted sludge style of production this record has a real punk rock pace to it sounding right at home with bands such as Motorhead albeit with a more slime ridden low end guitar sound. With the album being recorded with Toxic Holocaust’s Joel Grind the old school thrash metal vibe is extremely prevalent with some parts of this record. Fast ravenous circle pit inducing riffs are broken apart by slow lumbering chugging guitars almost forcing you to bob your head as the band anchors down into some serious groove. Opening track “Gods on Vacation” epitomises the record perfectly as the aforementioned relentless barrage of thrash metal riffs are sliced up with huge slabs of hard-core beat down style riffing. The highlight of the record comes towards the end with a track simply entitled “Punk Out”. This song essentially does what it says on the tin clattering you with a short and to the point blast of no frills punk rock.
Referring to the rest of the album no frills can certainly be used to describe the majority of material you’ll hear throughout the rest of the record. If you appreciate the simpler and more straight forward approach to your metal, you’ll certainly not be disappointed. Black Tusk don’t stray too far from the path and aren’t afraid to knuckle down into heavy hard hitting beats and sink into some sludgy head slamming riffs. The band don’t tend to sacrifice the essence of groove here for any subtle intricacies this is balls out truest of the true metal. However, this does end up being a detriment to this album particularly for anyone looking for something on the more somewhat exciting side. Listening to the record for its full duration does feel like a bit of a chore and the initial driving force of this punk rock laced sludge metal begins to fall flat around the halfway mark. The previously mentioned “Punk Out” does peak your interest again but it does little in the way of saving Pillars of Ash from the clutches of mediocrity.
One of the main problems Pillars of Ash has is that it is quite forgettable. When put up against its relapse contemporaries the album just lacks a certain degree of originality and cutting edge. Black Tusk often find themselves compared to acts such as Baroness and Black Breath but considering those particular bands latest efforts this fails to cut the sludge metal mustard. Not that there’s anything particularly wrong with this older school approach to their song writing it’s just upon multiple listens Pillars of Ashes tracks end up blurring into the same repetitive jumble of regurgitated thrash, sludge and hard-core. Despite the amount of genres Black Tusk integrate into their sound it never truly resembles anything remotely unique. This blend of musical styles ultimately ends up robbing the band of any identity as they struggle to create something that hasn’t been heard many times prior to this records release. There’s not much wrong with this album it’s just that there’s simply not enough standout moments to make it worth playing again. Fans of the band won’t be disappointed with this release but those looking for a new and exciting take on sludgy hard-core won’t find anything to really shout about.