Artist Discovery: Black Tusk

May 29, 2012


Between now and June 23rd we have enlisted the top music blogs from around the country to feature different artists from this year’s inaugural Orion Music + More. From metal mainstays to buzzworthy bands rising through the ranks, we want you to discover all the talent taking over Atlantic City’s Bader Field this year.

Today’s feature comes from Consequence of Sound’s Michael Roffman.

Orion Music & More is not your hippie mother’s summer festivity. Nor is it simply an excuse to drive flocks of car enthusiasts and metalheads to the shores of Atlantic City. It is an exhibition of Metallica’s legacy, compounded by a recent second-wind determination to play every venue known to mankind, milking its anniversary in the music business through hand-picking acts that construct the epitome of “variety.”

With Suicidal Tendencies sharing a bill, and Ride The Lightning in full-on live glory, an expression of awe is to be had by all. Where else do you get Eric Church performing with Modest Mouse? Nowhere, because Metallica doesn’t give a damn, even when its members are sober. Made remarkably clear by Hetfield and company these past few years is a taste for the sludge and stoner genres, solidified on Guitar Hero: Metallica through playlist selections such as Atlanta’s own Mastodon, and the ever-impressive desert-trawling Kyuss.

Savannah power trio, Black Tusk, continues from previous landmarks established by the likes of Kylesa and Baroness, furthering the South’s undying love of all things violent and chunky. If you were so inclined to deconstruct stoner metal with lengthy analysis or family ties, as we see here regarding post-rock, I imagine the saga at hand would be far more complex than what Black Tusk involves.

Alternatively, we do in fact know it when it’s heard, and it sounds fantastic. Guitarist Andrew Fidler, bassist Jonathan Athon, and drummer Jamie May — all sharing vocal duties — met up on a Georgia street and kicked off jam sessions in a maelstrom of punk rock urgency and primal metal gutturals, thus giving birth to an entity one could almost call Lovecraft-meets-Terminator.

When Metallica calls you out to play an air field in New Jersey for the ultimate purpose of melting peoples’ faces, you know you’ve succeeded; when a half-hour of devastation on record can push the mousiest of us into raging mosh mode in a lonely bedroom, you know you’ve done the world justice.

Black Tusk has pulled this off several times, with four LPs closing on 2011′s omen-heavy Set The Dial, and at one point joining a split EP in 2003 alongside North Carolina-based rock outfit, ASG.

Sometimes, they awe us with dark and subtle lead-ins on tracks that don’t even crack the three-minute threshold (“Mass Devotion”), other times you’re plainly tossed into chaos without warning (“Set The Dial To Your Doom,” “This Time Is Divine”). Sometimes, you’re drowned in noise (“Snake Charmer,” “Redline”), sometimes you’re unexpectedly given a three-parter you buy into because nothing else has made a lick of sense (“The Take Off,” “The Ride,” “The Crash”). One minute, the voice mimics Tom Araya, while the next it’s more like Josh Homme, and you’re not entirely certain every sound isn’t coming from a single beast with several monstrous maws belting out prehistoric lunacy.

It’s not always 100% coherent, but it’s always surefire stoner punk — the discarded offspring of an electric wizard and Henry Rollins’ id, marching onward with hooves that echo like double-bass frenzies. Those of us who run in heavier circles know extremes exist, like sawing limbs to the static of grindcore, detaching brain from stem in gory thrash numbers, touring blackest Europe for the darkest, most degrading flavor of the week. We could antagonize the religious right-wingers, we could punch in the doughy faces of unassuming screamo high-steppers.

In contrast, Black Tusk and its contemporaries meld a rebellious punk premise with the seldom erratic yet always jarring fuzzy din of stoner metal. This is not for technical achievements or merit badges, this is for the fans. Black Tusk will be at Orion Music + More, coming to Atlantic City for two atomic days in sweltering late June. You could bake in a tent in central Tennessee, or you can make like Lucas and take the pilgrimage to East Coast sin and redemption. After all, if you are going to gamble with anything, it might as well be your hearing. And your sanity.