Black Tusk “Taste the Sin” Album Review
The South really has quite the impressive roster of metal bands these days. More precisely, Georgia does. And the bands that the Peach State is churning out seem to all specialize in some form of sludge/stoner/doom metal. I’m talking about heavy hitters like Mastodon, Baroness, Kylesa, and Zoroaster. And now another relatively new band from the Dirty South has entered the fray, playing the same genre of self-described “swamp metal” but with a slightly different approach.
Black Tusk have been around since 2005, releasing an album and a variety of splits, but Taste the Sin marks the group’s major label debut.
While the sludge/stoner metal of their Georgian peers consists of a significant dose of syrupy-slow riffage, intricate guitar work, and psychedelic flourishes, Black Tusk have introduced their own bare bones, stripped-down version. On Taste the Sin, it’s balls to the wall for the entire record. There’s no time for reflection here.
From the album’s opening line (“Time is coming, heed the sound, rip your face off, thrash around”) to it’s closing one (“Ain’t goin’ slow!”) the tempo never dips below breakneck, and it proceeds like the band’s mantra to live fast. It creates a new take on their traditional genre stylings by adapting somewhat of a punk and thrash metal ethos; that is, start at top speed and get to the end of the song as quickly as possible. To wit, only one of the record’s ten songs eclipses the four minute mark, and the whole thing clocks in under 35 minutes. For stoner metal, which likes to spread out and explore its grooves, that is unheard of.
Actually, this isn’t really a groove-centric album at all. The power of the songs lies in the rhythm and percussion, which fuel the record on like giant pounding engine turbines. I mean, the back end on these songs is huge. And the pace is so frenzied that no riff is ever given the time to really marinate. That has its pluses and minuses; the songs stay focused and never stray off on tangents, but it also creates a batch of songs that can tend to sound very homogeneous. It’s hard to stay amped for the entire album when there are no peaks and valleys. It’s a subtle but immensely important skill that those other bands have – they use altered tempos and instrumental explorations in order to build up to and accentuate the inevitable ferocity. With no buildup, you become a little desensitized.
While the music’s pace differs from their Georgian cohorts, the double-edged vocal attack instantly recalls two of those very bands. It’s amazing how closely Andrew, the guitarist, and Athon, the bassist, sound like Kylesa’s Phillip Cope and Mastodon’s Troy Sanders, respectively. They sing mostly about tired subjects like battle, honor, and deceit in a call-and-response fashion. Although on “Red Eyes, Black Skies,” they scream with enough breathless fury that you’d be forgiven if you thought you actually were running through a snowy landscape trying to avoid being ripped to shreds. The album ends with a four song suite entitled “Double Clutchin” (“Redline,” “The Take Off,” “The Ride,” and “The Crash”) which, as you might imagine based on those titles, tells the tale of someone with a need for speed and apparently a death wish.
“Double Clutchin” is a good summation of Taste the Sin as a whole. It’s speed demon metal with no use for the brake pedal. In the band’s own words, “Hammer down, swerve, roaring sound/steel frame bends, Southern bound.”