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Tusk: Tree Of No ReturnTree Of No Return (2004)
Hydra Head Records
Reviewer Rating: 4.5
Contributed by: FortyMinutesWestFortyMinutesWest
(others by this writer | submit your own)
When I first started writing reviews for this site I only reviewed stuff I bought. Most of these reviews were for bands that I thought deserved some attention. A few months later, Scott started sending me packages full of promos to review. I was still doing the same thing I set out to do in the f.
When I first started writing reviews for this site I only reviewed stuff I bought. Most of these reviews were for bands that I thought deserved some attention. A few months later, Scott started sending me packages full of promos to review. I was still doing the same thing I set out to do in the first place, but in a different way. A lot of the bands I've reviewed here are somewhat unknown, so one way or another, they've gotten some exposure. There is a drawback to this though; I seldom have time to review the things I've been picking up on my own. "Tree of no Return" was never sent to me, I ordered it a while back and I've been impressed ever since.
When I first picked up this disc, my motivation was fairly simple, Tusk featured members of Pelican. In fact, this band actually predates Pelican. For those who are unfamiliar, Pelican has put out a couple stellar releases on Hydra Head, which have invoked comparisons to Isis among others. While my motivation was based on who was in it, the disc can stand alone because of what's on it. "Tree of no Return" is a concept album based upon being lost in the woods. Now, I'm not a huge fan of concept albums, but this one makes for a compelling listen.
This release is all about setting an atmosphere, something band focuses on from the very beginning, where the type of noises typically heard in a forest serve as in intro. Although the sound of Pelican can be heard in some parts, this is not the same band. One huge difference is the fact that Tusk utilizes vocals and while Pelican's focus is on repetition of huge riffs, Tusk is all over the place. Before you get a chance to categorize this band, they break into a different style. Tusk isn't content to pick one style and stick to it, rather, they pull influences from all over the musical spectrum. This is made immediately evident on the title track, where the band shifts from calm guitar strumming all the way to grind. The shifts, whether they're stylistic or in tempo do a great deal to establish the general feeling of chaos and helplessness. The vocals don't hurt either, particularly the unstable spoken word passages that are almost Converge-like. The idea of being lost, the fact that you or no one else knows where you are, and that there is no visible solution are all conveyed musically and lyrically.
The lyrics are as scribbled down in the insert like journal entries, although they aren't written from the perspective of the traveller. Our traveller was walking along a trail through the forest when he stumbled upon another path and followed it until he ended up in strange and unfamiliar terrain. This is where he spots the tree mentioned in the title, with its "labyrinth of poison limbs." Already lost, and now starting to panic, he turns to run back in the direction he came from. However, he loses his footing and hits his head hard, knocking him unconscious. That's only the beginning.
Obviously this isn't going to be the band you listen to when you want to be cheered up, but "Tree of no Return" provides you with a diverse set of influences that are all moulded together in a way that will demand all of your attention. This really can't be simplified in a "if you like this, you'll love that" sort of way, nor is it an easy listen, but it's well worth the effort. Tusk pretty much came out of nowhere with this one, known only as that "old band with the Pelican guys," but that won't last. "Tree of no Return" blends grind, atmospheric metal, black metal, and a myriad of other styles into one great release.
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