Black Tusk - Set The Dial
Relapse Records
Sludge/Stoner Metal
10 songs (34:01)
Release year: 2011
Relapse Records
Reviewed by Khelek

The first time I heard Black Tusk was a couple years ago when I saw them open for Weedeater in a seedy little music club in Rochester, NY. It was an excellent show, and I felt that Black Tusk certainly had talent, although it has taken me this long to really sit down and finally listen to their music. Set The Dial was released back in 2011 and it is the band's 4th full-length release. For the most part these guys play stoner sludge and doom in the vein of Kylesa and Weedeater, although their sound is certainly faster and influenced a bit more by punk and hardcore. It often relies on repetitive riffing and sheer heaviness to get its point across, but fortunately these guys use plenty of energy and emotion to keep it interesting.

I thought the instrumental intro track was a little unnecessary, but fortunately it is short and Bring Me Darkness opens right up into what Black Tusk is best at: creating catchy stoner/doom metal with an edge. This song is quite repetitive but it never lets up, it just keeps pummeling you with solid riffs and the yells of guitarist/frontman Andrew Fidler. One interesting thing about these guys is that all 3 members participate in the vocals, though it is the hardcore-esque yells of Fidler that are heard most often. Ender Of All gets off to a similarly quick start with some thrashy riffs. This is what people who listen to stoner metal want to hear. These guys don't fuck around with any bells and whistles; this is just 3 guys playing stripped-to-the-bone, energetic metal. Mass Devotion, although short, actually creates a bit of atmosphere. The opening sounds as though it could have been inspired by Devin Townsend. But it stays heavy with some big riffs and strong drums and the combined growls of Fidler and bassist Jonathon Athon, whose growls are lower and stronger, and a good contrast for Fidler's higher-pitched yells.

Upon first hearing Black Tusk, I thought this album would be decent, but somewhat one-dimensional as stoner sludge and doom tends to be. However, these guys actually surprised me. Not only do they mix things up in terms of how different instruments play their roles in individual songs, these guys actually know how to create different atmospheres and bring out a range of emotions in their music. It's quite impressive. Take Resistor for example. Yes, it still has some of that repetitive nature of most sludge and stoner metal, but the guitars and drums are really varied and technically excellent. The emotions shift between a sort of lonesome blues to aggressive and almost frantic. Simply an excellent example of an instrumental done right. And the next track This Time Is Divine keeps the same energy going. It begins with the bass and drums driving the melody forward, really allowing those instruments to be heard loud and clear and not overpowered by the guitar. Athon's vocals are also used a lot more here, and I have to say he sounds damn good. The dueling going on later between the guitar and bass is face-melting, definitely having a sort of hardcore edge to it. These guys really want you to feel something when you listen to this music.

Ultimately Black Tusk prove on this album that they have what it takes to stand with other great stoner/sludge bands today such as Kylesa and Weedeater. I have a feeling that these guys are going to keep on raising the bar for themselves because they clearly really enjoy challenging themselves to make great music that gets the listener involved and interested.

Killing Songs :
Ender Of All, Carved In Stone, Resistor, This Time Is Divine
Khelek quoted 80 / 100
Other albums by Black Tusk that we have reviewed:
Black Tusk - Taste the Sin reviewed by Charles and quoted 73 / 100
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