Review: Pillars of Ash by Black Tusk Carries the Torch

Black Tusk by Angela Boatwright (1) Black Tusk by Angela Boatwright

There’s something very eerie listening to the final recordings of the deceased. Pillars of Ash was recorded in October of 2014, a month before bassist/vocalist/beardmaster Jonathan Athon unexpectedly passed away due to a fatal motorcycle accident. The remaining members were left with a difficult choice. Ultimately, they decided to release the album and to continue touring, carrying on the legacy of their fallen brother.

Engineered by Toxic Holocaust’s Joel Grind and released through the good people at Relapse Records, Pillars of Ash is a powerful final chapter for the Savannah trio. Athon’s low barks contrast perfectly with guitarist Andrew Fidler’s high wails and drummer James May’s gritty growls especially when their vocals are layered together. The riffs remain as great as they have been in previous releases; a mix of stoner metal and punk, which the band has dubbed “swamp metal”. It’s a sound that melds well with the heavy music I’ve come to expect from Savannah, joining the ranks of Baroness and Kylesa.

Black Tusk

Black Tusk

If you look at the lyrics, the underlying theme of every song (except for the track “Punk Out”, a cover written by fellow Savannah band, Tank 18) seems to be about accepting death, which is- once again- very eerie. Maybe it’s just me, but take a look at the last lines of “Black Tide”:

“My lungs fill, there is no air, this is the end, now I’m aware/ At peace with this, my soul roams, the black tide will take me home.”

I don’t know about you, but that line sends shivers down my spine. Give a listen to this posthumous masterpiece and you’re likely to feel the same.

Black Tusk is now on tour with Corey Barhorst (Niche, Kylesa) in Athon’s stead. They will be performing in Montreal on March 2nd at Foufounes Electriques, along with Holy Grail, Dizastra and Dealer. Tickets HERE.