Savannah – Georgia. Home to Baroness , Kylesa and of course Black Tusk. A humid and tropical place no wonder a band emerged from the city and claimed Swamp Metal as its oeuvre. Black Tusk, like Baroness, were struck by tragedy in recent years, losing bassist and vocalist Jonathon Athon after a motorcycle accident. “Pillars of Ash” was released posthumously and the band decided to salute their fallen bandmate by continuing, bringing in ex Kylesa four stringer Corey Barhost.
TCBT is their sixth studio album and the first with this new line up. The TCBT is a take on Elvis’ famed Taking Care of Business (in a flash) – the lightning bolt tattoo seen on many a psychobilly and rockabilly. Here it is Taking Care of Black Tusk. Surely a metaphor for the licking of wounds, dusting down and getting back down to muthfuckin’ business!
Opening with an echoing spoken passage like a trippy eulogy the band then tear into Closed Eye – pure hardcore mayhem. For someone who last listened to the band when Set the Dial came out it was a kick in the nads – and a nice one (really Matt?) . There was always a dirty punk rock edge to BT’s groovy sludge but this is balls out Zeke style. “Agali” that follows is tough. Like 6’6 20 Stone angry tough. The dual vocals make it feel like two pissed off dudes – one thin rangy and vicious and the second the size of a house, are advancing on you with evil glints in their eye. Behind is an infectious riff like Rocket From the Crypt on PCP. “Lab Rat” sounds like prime late 80’s NYHC mixed with moonshine. My lord what would the XXX brigade say.
The transition of bands in the Sludge /Doom world is common, C.O.C. is a case in point. Black Tusk have flip flopped about for years and now the coin has come down punk face up. “Scalped “ “Ghosts Roam” “Ill at Ease” – it is all so fucking gnarly . It’s bringing out the wannabe skate punk in me. This album is what would happen if the Nardcore kids, the CBGB kids and the New Orleans peeps created mutant test tube babies with giant instruments, covered in nappy rash and hell bent on destruction!
“Rest with the Dead” is a slower groovier affair which bursts into some angry noise rock and a jaunty solo before slumping back into big drum backed riffs . Great change of pace.
“Never Ending Daymare” is an angry slab of hardcore with a dizzying guitar line and a vocal that resonates Nuclear Assault’s John Connelly at his finest. The more I think about it surely Danny Lilker must have this album on repeat? “Orange Red Dead” is the sound of a foot hitting the back of a head over and over again punctuated by the rabid screams of a wronged man. “Whispers” is so full of piss and vinegar I have to put a towel in front of my dripping speakers.
Leaving you breathless and fading away is the mantra of “Burn the Stars” which finishes off this record. I can’t think of a more fitting sentence to end this review.
(8.5/10 Matt Mason)