Black Tusk – ‘Pillars Of Ash’ Review

Posted: by Sean Gonzalez

Crusted hardcore punk that bites and kicks with enough ferocious power, Pillars Of Ash is bound to get one moving. Whether it be opening up the pit at any show or the destructive energy you need to get out of bed, no doubt Black Tusk are open to the challenge of causing a scene. Much like Turnstile’s album last year, this record comes with the sole purpose of bleeding vigor into people with their blistering riffs met with pounding drums.

With that energy is the passing of founding member Jonathan Athon due to a motorcycle accident. Pillars Of Ash was finished before the accident, and Black Tusk have decided to continue one in honor of Athon, living now only in his recordings. Hearing his roars on the record now have a bit of hindsight bias embedded in the lyrics. Featuring lines about metaphysical existence now has a harsher and more grim light shining down. “Hopeless, never coming, endless ride to the sky. You feel ever weaker, voices call from inside. Sliding from the saddle as the strength leaves your soul, laughter from your demons as you cross the divide,” comes from “Beyond The Divide” and one can definitely feel Athon’s presence transcend this world. 

Regardless of how Black Tusk continue on, there is still this album to rally around. Starting with “God’s On Vacation,” the next 35ish minutes of your life will be full of high octane energy slamming in your ears. Sludgy, raw and aggressive; the trio knew how to effectively write scorching hardcore tunes. The production value feels as if these tunes were coming from a live stage, feeling natural and without too much processing; save for the echo on the vocals. The compositions from the band are constantly twirling around different heavy riffs, not allowing one to be able to predict what will happen next. “Bleed On Your Knees” starts off with a rather melodic post-punk groove before crashing into a completely different section that bends and twists your mind in its assault. Before long, the track paces itself in a different manner with the winding drum patterns. “Born Of Strife” begins with a thrash styled influence. The flickering guitar that kicks off the tune soon is met with blastbeats from the drums not only keeping up, but constantly turning the song in a new direction. In the middle of the track a two step happens before Jamie May torches that idea with insane, and I mean INSANE, technicality. 

That is where the majority of Black Tusk’s uniqueness lie. May’s frantic beats keep the in your face attitude alive as he switches gears without ever warning the listener. There are moments of dynamics from Andrew Fidler’s guitar work that deserve praise, like the entirety of “Black Tide.” What starts as a relatively simple chord progression builds to a breakdown that is charged with a separate guitar building on top of the simple pulse, accenting it nicely with a riff at the end of each bar. The song then transitions to a rather melodious ending spawning from heavy chords. 

The ability of Black Tusk to combine all of their talents into one synonymous attack is the reason Pillars Of Ash is a fun listen. While not overly complex, the rhythm from May is enough to keep listeners on their toes in anticipation of where he will go next. For an album packed to the brim of hardcore however, Black Tusk did their job in punching out eery listener with the amount of ferocity embedded in every tune.

Score: 7.25/10