Black Tusk

support Howl
author EW date 09/02/11 venue Underworld, London, UK

The opportunity to check out a couple of sludge bands rolling through town on an understated bill was too good for me to turn down, and so with a half-empty venue and my mind not a little distracted by a ski trip but 2 days away, Black Tusk and Howl were gleefully added to my vast list of bands now seen.

Howl

In all honesty I cannot admit to being well acquainted beforehand with the music of either these two archetype American Relapse artists; their swampy, dirgy styles falling somewhere between the dirty, fuzzy worlds of Eyehategod, Crowbar and Kylesa, a lesser explored region of the heavy metal landscape by yours truly. With no other bands on the bill Howl casually opened up proceedings not before I'm sure the majority in attendance had downed at least a couple of cold ones in waiting, proceeding to provide an admirably solid and well-received set yet which ultimately lacked a real spark to separate them from the sludge-ridden hordes. In what quickly became representative of the whole night commendation must go the undoubted desire of both bands on stage; realising their perhaps once-in-a-lifetime opportunity of touring Europe's finest (and not-so-finest) venues their pride at performing music obviously ingrained deep within was visibly clear to the exterior, in the process turning Howl's set from one that could have otherwise become stale into something worthy of the effort in being there.

Black Tusk

Black Tusk's profile has grown in stature in recent times following the release of their second album, "Taste the Sin", in 2010, not the least helped by the instantly recognisable cover art of John Baizley - in my mind a Southern-state quality indicator much like Necrolord of the Scandinavian black/death metal scene. As a basic 3-piece and with a set of tunes faster and chunkier than I've become accustomed to in the world of sludge, Black Tusk were a surprisingly easy band on the ear. Histrionics and egos firmly left out in the cold, their approach of riff after ploughing riff, invariably performed with beaming smiles and warming gratitude (under some impressive beardage too), competent musicianship and a welcome sense of urgency easily ensured Black Tusk the better of tonight's two acts. Like Howl before them, neither could they have been charged with rewriting the rule book of their respective genre but in Black Tusk's case the presence of consummate power told of a band aware of their standing and unlikely to ever disappoint in the live arena. Not the event to think back on as the highlight come the year's end but was there anything ever wrong with plain old solid? I think not…

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