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Black Tusk – Set the Dial

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With Mastodon, Kylesa, and Baroness making concerted efforts to become this generation’s Rush, Jesus and Mary Chain, and Thin Lizzy respectively, Black Tusk are pretty much the only Georgia metal act who still sound like they hail from the homestate of Sandra Dee and Uga. Let’s explain that a little more . . . Mastodon have been moving towards a prog rock/hard rock sound over their last couple of albums, Kylesa have shown a heavy influence from the college rock bands of the early ’90s on Spiral Shadow, and Baroness are incorporating tons of Thin Lizzy-esque twin guitar harmonies on their recent material. When considered from this point of view, Black Tusk are the last Georgian metal band who are still actively playing the “Georgian metal” sound.

Sure, the “swamp metal” thing is a tad hokie. It’s still comforting to know that three albums in, the closest the Savannah trio has come to “progression”—that oft-maligned buzzword slung around by bands who simply found a new setting on their amps—is switching producers. Jack Endino, in an unexpected but logical progression of his own from grunge knob twiddler extraordinaire to reliable metal taskmaster, pulls off the same transition on Set the Dial that he did for High on Fire’s Death Is This Communion. From “you are in the room” to “you are in the room and hear the sweat splash off of James May’s cymbals”, this thing sounds as great as you’d expect coming from three dudes with a Relapse budget to toss at a solid producer.

As for the music, refer to the third sentence up there. 35 minutes of rough and ready Southern grooves, with the guys firing on all cylinders for the album’s duration. And you can’t really fault them for picking up where their peachy peers left off. I mean, take a listen to “Carved in Stone” and tell me the gang shouting and syncopated breakneck pace couldn’t have fit on Time Will Fuse Its Worth or Static Tensions. Is it plagiarism? Nah, just a scene staying afloat after it was peeled open with major label deals and loosely themed package tours.

It’s all there on “Growing Horns” and “Ender of All”: the simplicity, the groove, the not-so-subtle Southern rock licks. The former out-metals anything our boys have laid down thus far by embracing that beloved genre trope of becoming The Man Downstairs, or at least one of his servants. The latter rides Andrew Fidler’s ramblin’ wreck riffing, letting ’em ring during the verse and tightening his picking to the nimble leads he flaunts on “Resistor” and “Bring Me Darkness”. Like an increasing number of next gen metal acts across all spectrums are discovering (including fellow Endino-collaborators Skeletonwitch), learning how to stop worrying and love the hook is a major step towards even more dudes and dudettes slinging tallboys of fizzy goodness at your gigs.

— Greg Majewski

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Black Tusk – “Crossroads and Thunder”

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Black Tusk – “Carved in Stone Thunder”

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Relapse (CD, LP)
Bandcamp (Digital download)

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