Black Tusk - Set The Dial
Record Label: Relapse Records
Release Date: October 25, 2011
On their fourth full-length release, Set The Dial, Black Tusk once more deliver the kind of bone-shaking heaviness and ear-splitting decibels that permeated their last two records - albeit taken to even greater heights. So while prior releases were drenched in a swamp-like murkiness, one that coated the skull-crunching riffs in a thick black mire that evoked a delectable rawness, Set The Dial sees the band adopting a somewhat more refined approach. The riffs are still intense as ever, but this time they're highlighted by a tighter, more bottom-heavy production that drives each note home like a cannonball. The band's unerringly tight rhythm section sounds even more on the mark than usual, the drum and bass interlocking in southern-fried grooves that compliment the searing hot sheets of metallic thunder laid out by the guitar work. In the midst of it all are the vocals - manic and aggressive in their throaty delivery, they are the perfect match for the band's hellish musical demeanor.
From a creative standpoint, there's not a whole lot to speak of on the record. The band doesn't stray far from their tried-and-true approach that favors simplicity and minimalistic structures to tie everything together. But this is not particularly a bad thing. Sludge metal is not exactly the most experimental of genres and Black Tusk know this, opting for a sound that while all their own, will not be mistaken for the self-indulgent noodling of Dream Theater any time soon. And thank goodness for that, because Black Tusk are no chumps, and when it comes to the meat-and-potatoes approach to metal, the band shines. Tracks like "Ender of All" calls to mind the early days of Mastodon, full of pulverizing riffs and anguished vocals, while the slow-burning "Mass Devotion" showcases the trio's penchant for writing hooks that are as sinister as they are catchy. From a lyrical standpoint, the record is more or less standard sludge metal fare. Demons and doom; sin and suffering - the band pull no punches in painting a nightmarish portrait of all things grim and gory to match the apocalyptic crunch that defines their sound.
Black Tusk may not hold the same level of notoriety in the metal scene as Savannah brethren like Mastodon or Baroness, but the group is anything but a copycat act, and Set The Dial proves that while they may take a relatively basic approach to their craft, they do it with great precision and discipline, conjuring the sort of grimy, riff-driven metal that would make the likes of Tony Iommi proud. If you're looking for something to whet your sludge metal appetite, look no further than Set The Dial.