Unflinching heaviness and catharsis

Black Tusk’s pummelling final release with late founding member Jonathan Athon delivers unflinching heaviness and catharsis.

The latest LP release from the Georgian swamp metal bruisers comes with an edge of sadness due to the death of bassist Athon, who died two years ago in a motorcycle crash, on November 9, 2014. Fortunately, Athon’s bass tracks and vocals were already recorded before his accident, preserving his characteristic bellowing and thrashing riffs, as heard on the two minute track ‘Punkout’.
At first listen, I thought Black Tusk sounded like Mastodon circa Leviathan, but without the prog; however, as a fan of High On Fire and Iron Monkey, this album was justly appealing. A typically deafening, direct, and crusty experience is to be had, clocking in at just over half an hour. The tracks on Pillars Of Ash end as quickly as they begin, with the longest, ‘Walk Among the Sky’, being four minutes and 10 seconds – six of the album’s 11 tracks are under three minutes.
The band’s apparent default gear of plowing 4/4 down picking and blackened punk chords can get a bit tiring after a while, as quite a few of the songs tend to descend into this pattern, despite a few gnarly intros and riffs. ‘Damned in the Ground’ is an example of this, despite a mean interlude riff from Athon. A brief moment of subtlety is to be had on the 30 second piano outro of ‘Leveling’; the final track.
My favourite tracks tended to be those with the faster tempos, such as ‘Born Of Strife’, displaying the strong hardcore influences of the band. A few blast beats and guitar solos can also be heard throughout, including on this track. 
Overall, Pillars Of Ash is a cathartic and fun album, due to its relentless barrage. However this can get tiring. Hopefully this will find some new fans through the inclusion of ‘God’s On Vacation’ in the new video game trailer of Mortal Combat XL. Longtime fans and newcomers should be able to enjoy this album, in the way one would enjoy a greasy hamburger. Don’t overthink it, just savour the flavour. 
1. Pillars Of Ash
2. Desolation Of Endless Times
3. Bleed On Your Knees
4. Born Of Strife
5. Damned In The Ground
6. Beyond The Divide
7. Black Tide
8. Still Not Well
9. Walk Among The Sky
10. Punkout
11. Leveling