Black Tusk - Set the Dial (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

Black Tusk

Set the Dial (2011)

Relapse Records

Black Tusk is a giving band. Just a year after dropping the phenomenal Taste the Sin, the Savannah, Ga. metal band has released another full-length, Set the Dial. While the record adds some new elements to what made Sin so great, Dial generally still finds Black Tusk sticking to its strengths. These tunes are sludgy rockers with throaty vocals and punishing rhythms. It's straightforward and fun all the way.

Still, there are subtle differences that differentiate the two records. Sin, in hindsight, feels like the culmination of Black Tusk's dominating style. The tunes were frills-free from start to finish. The band would lock into a song and just hammer the shit out of it. Dial, however, occasionally takes the time to feel out grooves. Black Tusk never approaches Baroness levels of jamminess--the album is still only 34 minutes long--but there are still slight breaks and builds in the action this time.

It's hard to imagine hearing a song like "Ender of All" on any other Tusk release. At nearly five minutes in length, the band does a whole lot more than thrash, taking time for quiet/loud dynamics and an extended series of outros that push the song over. "Mass Devotion" has an ambient intro. "Brewing the Storm" opens the record with an extended instrumental. These differences are slight but essential.

That said, it's still Black Tusk. Shit's still loud. For all the interludes and dynamics, what makes the band so appealing is that they kick ass consistently. Black Tusk is a true power trio; all three members sing/scream and they each bring something interesting to their instruments. The lyrics are also perfect metal masochism. The first words shouted are "Six! Six! Six!", so that should tell you what kind of record you're in for. Tunes about slaying virgins and Lucifer abound. Producer Jack Endino is certainly familiar with heavy music (High on Fire, Hole, Nirvana), and he brings out the band's best.

Dial's lone issue is that it feels underwritten at times. Sure, those instrumental tracks add some nice grooves ("Resistor" is a particularly fun track), but 10 songs feel like the bare minimum for a record. Then again, Taste the Sin just came out and I'm already feasting on another album of sludgy, discordant riffs. Here's hoping we get another record in 2012.