Black Tusk’s nasty EP ‘Tend No Wounds’ is a sunburnt, hammering return to form

black tusk

Not to beat a dead horse or anything, but there are bands made for summer listening. I know we went through this last week with the Shroud Eater review, but it’s not my fault that it happens to be summer and there is some choice music coming that goes really well with a raging backyard barbecue and tons of beers.

This isn’t the first time I’ve said that Black Tusk’s music goes down best when you’re hammered, out in the sun too long, and possibly out back not wearing a shirt (the ladies probably are wearing shirts, though … or maybe they aren’t), and it sounds like their music comes right from that same type of setting. Their Southern-drenched sludge metal is catchy and punishing at the same time, and they seem like the perfect band to hear outdoors, whether they’re physically playing it themselves or it’s coming from your iPod. Just everything about them howls sunstroke.

black tusk epBlack Tusk also happen to be relentless road warriors, as they seem to pop up on half a dozen tours each year that pass through my hometown, so clearly they want to earn things the hard way through grit and work. That’s commendable, and their sound is such that it’s best witnessed live when they can plug in and hammer you with their no-frills, punch-filled, swampy metal. The band certainly has enough material to keep things interesting, with three full-length records under their belts, the last one being 2011’s “Set the Dial,” a decent effort but one that wasn’t quite as strong as 2010’s gargantuan “Taste the Sin,” one of my favorite records of 2010. So it’s been two years since we got a full serving from these guys, so it seemed time for some fresh music from the band, and it has popped up in the form of the new stop-gap EP “Tend No Wounds.”

At six tracks and about 20 minutes, “Tend” is a great appetizer for whatever comes next, and the three guys who comprise this band–guitarist/vocalist Andrew Fidler, bassist/vocalist Jonathan Athon, and drummer/vocalist James May–sound hellbent on giving you a good bruising that’ll last all the way until their next full-length is unleashed. In fact, the effort is so direct and crushing that I wonder if Black Tusk wouldn’t be better off putting out more EPs, since they are so good at containing so much fury to a smaller package.

“Tend No Wounds” has a bit of an unexpected start, a buzzing instrumental that teeters ever so closely to black metal freedom, rumbling and barreling its way into “Enemy of Reason.” This track is where the EP sounds like vintage Black Tusk (well, if three years ago can be considered vintage), blowing open with a rousing melody, yowls and growls, and a nasty assault that should get blood pumping live. “The Weak and the Wise” lets the boys show off some of their guitar effects, as they blaze into a riff that sounds like a rocket blowing off exhaust, and their Southern-friend madness sounds rowdy and righteous during this track. “A sight of heaven, a feel of hell!” is howled as the song makes several rounds to come back and beat on you. “Internal/Eternal” is a blast, as the band chugs along a muddy path and grinds your face against the rocks as it goes on. It’s a tasty bit, and even though it has a violent disposition, you’ll still have a lot of fun going along with it. “Truth Untold” kicks off with a crushing splatter of drums, an ominous bassline that snakes along, and charred melodies that feel borne of the sun. “In Days of Woe” is a smashing finisher with a classic metal riff, shouted vocals, and the right amount of skullduggery.

Black Tusk’s new music isn’t terribly different from their other material, which isn’t a bad thing at all. This band has a formula and they have it down pretty good, so there’s no reason to mess with it. They motor you the fuck over and are more than happy to scorch you in your backyard as you take their music in. This EP is a really enjoyable mini-effort that is pretty close in quality to “Taste the Sin” and hopefully is a good indication of the hell they’ll raise have their future.

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