Though the band have been active since 2005, they only came to most folk’s attention with their first major release, Taste The Sin, yet they have another two albums, put out on a local label, on top of that for you to explore. Yes, here is a band that has delivered, to all intents and purposes, an album a year since their debut long-player, The Fallen Kingdom. For Set The Dial they’ve hauled in the legendary Jack Endino (Nirvana, High On Fire, Soundgarden) to produce and he’s made certain that the whole thing feels weighty and yet, at the same time, comes stripped of all but the bare essentials. The upshot of it all is that the album ebbs and flows nicely giving the impression that the band just plugged in and played it through in one take. Conversely, slinging on that slick sheen has propagated this familial, thick sludge that has coated everything, sparking too many similarities track-to-track and, more importantly, diminished the element of surprise – a valuable commodity.
Set The Dial is, without doubt, a much more foreboding affair than their previous efforts. “Brewing The Storm” grants you two minutes to adjust yourself to the colossal skin and bollock-janglingly deep bass action, before they gang-chant “6-6-6″ in your face and present you with the High On Fire-esque world of pain that is “Bring Me Darkness”. The track’s neck-jarring, side-to-side swagger lines itself up as a decent taster for the kind of dark lyrics you’ll be faced with. None of course can come close to the ludicrously-titled “Set The Dial To Your Doom” which sets about summoning up the hue and cry of Fu Manchu, before blending it with the kind of lyrics Job For A Cowboy might conjure up – “Technology seals our demise / Machines of war are on the rise / The fall of man is coming soon / Set the dial to your doom”.
Some tracks here are more meaty than others. “Ender Of All”, for instance, marches you into an echoing cave, cuts the power, then rebuilds the pace again and again with jagged guitar and steady-as-you-like drums, and “This Time Is Divine” where the vocal is segmented into a series of hawked yelps and where the music pauses to allow a buzzing chord to expand and distort. Others, like “Carved In Stone” or “Crossroads And Thunder” are much more straight forward, heads-down rockers, and as such could be viewed as over-simplified filler material. Whilst these may let the side down somewhat, there are a few welcome changes of pace that do exactly the opposite. “Mass Devotion”, for instance, provides a huge, warped, ambling riff that swallows everything around it until the vocal eventually dives in and jams it’s foot hard on the accelerator. Then, of course, there is the instrumental “Resistor” which allows for Black Tusk to properly stretch out their arms and go exploring to great effect.
The band do like to keep their influences close to their chest but at points littered throughout Set The Dial you’ll hear the spiteful gallop of Killers-era Iron Maiden (particularly on “Growing Horns”), the spiked thrashy influence of Saviours’ Into Abaddon (most notably on the spiteful “This Time Is Divine”), the black swarthiness of Purified In Blood’s Under Black Skies and the masterful psych-tweaked rock of The Sword’s Gods Of The Earth. And yet at no time does the album come anywhere close to matching any of these great records. It feels all too much like Black Tusk are simply trying to cement the position they currently hold – standing shoulder to shoulder with their Savannah brethren – rather than slotting on their thinking caps and going at this with all guns blazing. Consequently, whilst this is still a solid effort, it struggles to bring much new to the table and, as such, should be approached with caution.
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