Tend No Wounds - BLACK TUSK

If you've ever been to Savannah, you know the place can be hotter than one of Satan's farts. Thus it stands to reason why the metal coming out of there is sludgy, swampy and full of angst. A day care full of undisciplined brats makes less racket than BLACK TUSK along with their neighbors KYLESA and BARONESS and their esteemed kindred to the west, MASTODON. While KYLESA has taken a few steps out of the sludge boogie morass on their latest album, "Ultraviolet", BLACK TUSK keeps all feet proudly plunged in the muck on their new EP, "Tend No Wounds".

The spiraling and marching instrumental "A Cold Embrace" makes a tasty intro to the teetering bric-a-brac breakdowns and bridges heaped upon the otherwise stormy "Enemy of Reason". Even the maudlin fiddling intro to "The Weak and the Wise" is grimy before BLACK TUSK throws out distortion rips and pulverizing drives like mud clods in a bog brawl. "The Weak and the Wise" immediately becomes one of the finest metal performances of the year with its concussive heaviness and stinging guitar lances from Andrew Fidler.

Fidler then weaves intricate threads of luminous static at the beginning and through other sections of "Internal Eternal". As BLACK TUSK has always morphed punk modes into their music, expect more of the same here, along with a throbbing black metal drone on the verses. Jonathan Athon maintains an ominous bass plant that keeps "Internal Eternal" straight on the edge of plunging into purgatory.

Athon next serves up a rhythmic groove that's mangier than his belly-tickling chin wag to "Truth Untold". Fidler and drummer Jamie May latch onto it quickly and the song assumes a reverb-filled skate rat hum, complete with a SoCal punk breakdown segment. "Truth Untold" feels like it belongs to two eras of underground rock and you can hardly put a price tag on that.

BLACK TUSK here are where KYLESA was a few albums ago, but it's a comfy zone to headbang in. Andrew Fidler has a tendency to mirror Philip Cope's yelps and that's a compliment, not a dish. Countered by Jonathan Athon's lower-octave growls, BLACK TUSK continues to impress with their boggy slogs and their primal prods. Whether or not they choose to follow their sludge comrades down the same exploratory path remains to be seen, but at least fans of this stuff can take heart that "Tend No Wounds" is pure loudness. It's not as unruly as say, "Crossroads and Thunder", but it still delivers a hell of a whack.

EPs are sometimes filler, but not in this case. From start to finish on "Tend No Wounds", BLACK TUSK kicks and screams from center point of the humid oven basting their native turf. As always, their fist-clenched sound is reflective of a sweaty commotion you to have experience firsthand to fully appreciate.

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