Pillars Of Ash
29th January 2016 – Relapse Records
01. God’s On Vacation
02. Desolation Of Endless Times
03. Bleed On Your Knees
04. Born Of Strife
05. Damned In The Ground
06. Beyond The Devide
07. Black Tide
08. Still Not Well
09. Walk Among The Sky
10. Punk Out
A little over a year ago, tragedy struck Black Tusk when bass player and vocalist Jonathan Anthon died from injuries sustained in a motorbike accident. It was a day that not only rocked sludge circles but metal as a whole. Having recorded most of the album before those tragic events, Pillars Of Ash is part album, part tribute to their fallen brother, making it a somewhat emotional vat of sludge.
Straight from the first chords of “God’s On Vacation“, you’re greeted with the standard Black Tusk ferocity to which fans have grown accustomed. It’s like what would happen – all in a metaphorical sense of course – if Mastodon and Discharge were armed with the earlier works of Kylesa and Baroness and were being piloted by High On Fire and Eyehategod in a rerun of Robot Wars being presented by Crowbar. A bit absurd, but you get the idea.
The album itself never really takes pause to reflect; the songs morph together as an eleven-armed monster with the kind of pace and heaviness of a Space Hulk going at warp speed. The clip at which this album goes can be exhausting at times, as there’s barely any time to catch your breath – but if you embrace the onslaught it’s right up there with some of the best work the band have done up until this point.
“Still Not Well” offers something close to a respite, but that’s like saying I prefer to get punched in the face than kicked in the balls. Although at a slower pace, it’s still draped in that balls-to-the-wall fury that’s an ongoing theme within Pillars Of Ash; it reeks of a very heavy hardcore influence, made more evident by the fact that Joel Grind of Toxic Holocaust produced the album. He has captured the band’s more vicious side and laid it out bare for all to see, culminating in one of the best sludge albums for a while.
Pillars Of Ash is a shining gem in an already glistening back catalogue. It has raised the bar considerably, keeping Black Tusk up with the likes of Baroness and Kylesa at the forefront of a booming scene, and taking it to new, exciting places. It’s a fitting testament to the legacy left by their comrade, and Anthon’s presence will not only be missed in Black Tusk, but metal as a whole.