Black Tusk – “Pillars Of Ash” (Relapse Records)
All hail Athon. Bassist / vocalist Jonathan Athon was one apex making up the triumvirate of Black Tusk, Savannah, Georgia’s swamp crust dark overlords. Succumbing to a motorcycle crash in 2014, Athon’s passing brought an abrupt halt to what seemed like an unstoppable sludge oozing through four albums since 2007, although not before completing this last album which his Black Tusk brothers – guitarist Andrew Fidler and drummer Jamie May – issue in his popular memory. With a strong crust punk influence, Black Tusk’s brand of stoner metal is some of the most dirty, downright nihilistic music this side of the Mason Dixon line. Ugly, distorted bass and even more murkier feedback guitar topped off by dull hillbilly hatchet drums tell the tale of the backwaters through even more rancid songs like ‘Bleed On Your Knees’ and ‘Born Of Strife’. With the vocals screamed out like the curses of a desperate soul in the hangman’s nose about to be dropped, these good ‘ol boys haven’t forgotten their southern roots as they hammer in some monster grooves and rolling rhythms on ‘Still Not Well’ along with the speed stench core steaming from their armpits like on the aptly titled ‘Punked Out’. “Pillars Of Ash” is a fitting tribute to the memory of Jonathan Athon and as Black Tusk (now joined by Corey Barhorst from fellow Savannah band Kylesa) hit the road, it’s nice knowing that his spirit will live on in the band he created with them a decade ago.