Though Savannah band Black Tusk has been kicking up a storm since 2005, it was the release of their debut album “Passage Through Purgatory” in 2008 that pushed them out further and farther into the listening consciousness of rock fans. Last year saw the Georgians sign to Relapse Records, followed by the release of their second album “Taste The Sin”, seeing critical acclaim and a growing enthusiasm for their sound. Now on May 24th a remastered and re-packaged version of their debut is re-issued through Relapse, with two bonus tracks and expanded artwork by John Baizley of Baroness fame.
The trio of Andrew, James, and Athon combine to create a treacle thick, tree bending, burning mix of metal, sludge and punk rock; listening to their music is like standing in a musical wind tunnel, with ears pinned back from the high energy onslaught. Anyone who has heard the second album will find this debut does not have quite the more rounded and superior craft of “Taste The Sin” but is more than worthy of seeing the light of day for their newer audience.
As there is almost a three year gap between the original release and the follow-up it would be a failing if there was not an evolution but “Passage Through Purgatory” still stands proudly as a great album that needs to be available to those that missed it the first time round.
From the brief instrumental opener of ‘Witch’s Spell’, through the subsequent 10 tracks, the album is a riff pounding avalanche of raw energy and primal intensity. ‘Fixed In The Ice’ is the first full track setting the standard, which Black Tusk barely lets dip throughout the release. Rampant riffs and aggressive vocals surge out from around the punishing drums and tearing guitar sounds. Part metal, part punk the song vibrates relentlessly, switching pace a few times without dropping the caustically intense noise level. The time changes are a little clunky but merely a moment soon forgotten by the surrounding quality.
‘Mind Moves Something’ continues the attack fusing direct punk rock aggression musically and vocally with a high paced, sludge type groove. The twin vocals, growling and shouty work well and on the later ‘End Of Days‘ they truly excel. With a great drum start alongside a dirty deep bassline this track erupts with soaring guitars and explosive bursts of noise. The vocal delivery between the two voices is reminiscent of ‘Quick Death‘ by The Transplants, though the similarities stop there. The two other instrumentals on the album show the band can bring a more energy controlled feel to their music but it is when they grab the listener by the throat and blast them full on,as on ‘Prophecy One By One’ or ‘Falling Down’ that they are most effective and devastating.
Their sound flows within the listener like molten noise, scarring so to be never forgotten. The two bonus tracks come from split release EP’s they have shared with other bands. The heavy riff driven ‘Beneath’ was originally on the Holy Mountain split, and ‘Fatal Kiss’ with an awesome grumbling bass sound, was part of the shared EP with Fight Amp, both coming out in 2009. Both of these tracks are typical Black Tusk with dark merciless riffs, infectiously compelling hooks and grooves, and a inspired blend of metal, punk thrash, and hard dirty sludge metal heaviness.
“Passage Through Purgatory” is the first great stride in the rise of Black Tusk and even though for some, who are further down their creative road, having the brilliance of “Taste The Sin” already in their hearts, this is an album that must not be passed over or ignored. The band has a sound that brings a warped version of a Deliverance type union of Red Fang and Torche and then brands the listener with its scorching power, there really is no better way to suffer.