When: Sat., Jan. 23, 8 p.m. 2016
SATURDAY, JAN. 23
KINGS, RALEIGH—In a little more than a week, Savannah sludge metal act Black Tusk will release Pillars of Ash, its fifth album and the last to feature founding bassist and singer Jonathan Athon. He died in 2014 after a motorcycle accident. The music sounds more like portent than tribute. Opener "God's on Vacation" finds Athon screaming against a driving backbeat and dense riffs: "All that's left/A fucking hole."
Athon's bandmates, drummer James May and guitarist Andrew Fidler, opted to soldier on, joined by former Kylesa bassist Corey Barhorst. "We just had to keep it going," May said last year. "If it would have been any of us, that's what the other two guys would have done." During the new trio's first tour together, they brought Athon along, spreading his ashes across Europe while traveling with Black Label Society.
Though the trio's dense fusion of hardcore punk momentum and heavy metal heft remains intact, the new album shows signs that Black Tusk had started to stretch its sound. Fidler's guitar solos feel meatier and more consequential as they cut through Athon and May's thick low end. The band's intensity is unparalleled on these tracks, thanks in part to the careful work of producer Joel Grind, who took a second pass to perfect the levels after realizing this would be Athon's final testament. The album's bone-dry mix and explosive dynamics find Black Tusk at its finest. The album offers some fitting closure by putting a powerful end to its first era. With Royal Thunder, Bask, Gorbash and SOON. 8 p.m., $12, 14 W. Martin St., Raleigh, 919-833-1091, www.kingsbarcade.com. —Bryan C. Reed