Savannah Georgia's sludge metal trio Black Tusk are back. Pillars of Ash marks Black Tusk's first full length in almost five years. However the last five years have had their ups and downs for the band. In those years they released two Ep's, Tend No Wounds, and Vulture's Eye. Tragically the lost founding member and bassist/vocalist Jonathan Athon on November 9,2014. He died due to injuries sustained from a motorcycle accident. He was placed in a medically-induced coma and, per his wishes, was pulled from life support after it was determined that he had irreparable brain damage. However Pillars of Ashes recording was completed prior to the death of Jonathan.

The loss of Jonathan was tragic, but Andrew Fidler and Jamie May have soldiered on recruiting Corey Barhorst, a friend of the band and founder of his own project Niche, to fill in on bass duties on tour. He's even thanked in the liner notes of this album for making Black Tusk whole again.

Pillars of Ash comes at the listener like a brick to the face, and never lets up. Black Tusk are commonly labeled as sludge metal, but their songs have always been faster, shorter, and overall more aggressive that traditional Sludge. When I think Sludge I normally think songs that are at least six minutes or longer, but there is no song on Pillars Of Ash that is longer than four minutes, and that's not a bad thing. I enjoy the speed and aggression on this album. Black Tusk have always had elements of Hardcore Punk in their music, and Pillars Of Ash is no different. It's not surprising that Hardcore Punk elements are incorporated in to their music, considering that Black Tusk's roots are in crust punk and street punk. Before forming Black Tusk, Andrew Fidler and Jonathan Athon were in a crust punk band, and Jamie may was in a street punk band.

I know it's an odd comparison but Andrew Fidler's vocals remind me of Mark Unseen, of Unseen and Ashers. Jonathan Athon's vocals remind me of Brent Hinds of Mastodon. Those comparisons may seem night and day, but it works for Black Tusk. Musically Black tusk are usually associated with Baroness and Kylesa, but also for sharing the same home town of Savannah Georgia, and that Baroness' guitarist and vocalist John Dyer Baizley creates all of Black Tusk's artwork. Musically Black Tusk has always reminded me of a faster, more aggressive, less psychedelic Kylesa.

Jonathan Athon may be gone but he is not forgotten. I think he would be proud of the final product of Pillars Of Ash that Black Tusk has produced. It's a fast, heavy, aggressive, and overall a great album. It's available now via Relapse Records, check it out, I highly recommend this album. Rest In Peace Jonathan.