Blog Exclusive CD Reviews

Black Tusk
Set the Dial
Street: 10.25
Black Tusk = Kylesa + Black Cobra + Zoroaster
Black Tusk have a lot in common with their Southern metal brethren such as Mastodon and Baroness (minus all the proggy bullshit), but they combine their sludgy, stoner-y, doom-y style with the swagger of ‘70s groups like Thin Lizzy and ZZ Top. Never ones to shy away from the power of the riff, Black Tusk kick off Set the Dial with the instrumental “Brewing the Storm,” replete with that swagger I was talking about, before jumping into “Bring Me Darkness” by shouting “SIX! SIX! SIX!” repeatedly in the song’s intro. “Ender of All” is one of the album’s longer tracks, and it really showcases everything that Black Tusk does well--I hate to use the word “groove,” but there’s a definite feeling in the song that makes it clear that these dudes know they’re badasses. If you want some thick, heavy metal that is fun and ass-kicking at the same time (or if you just wish the last three Mastodon album’s didn’t exist), you’d do well to check out Set the Dial –Ricky Vigil

Mr. Death
Descending Through Ashes
Mr. Death = Grave + Dismember + Entombed
I can overlook the staid NWOSDM worship, the “serial killers in suits” press gimmick and even the dorky band name (this isn’t another Marvel superhero no one’s heard of is it?)…but I can’t overlook the mind-numbing levels of sameness Descending Through Ashes continually digs itself into. While it comes loaded with the hallmarks of many a ’90s Swedish classic (ragged guitar grit, tortured vocals, raw production) it generally fails to clear the iconic bar set by touchstones like Left Hand Path and Like an Ever Flowing Stream. Call it bad timing, but Descending just lacks the primal chutzpah that put Sweden on the heavy metal map. Drums sound neutered, guitars choke and sputter in the murky bass over-mixing, and Jocke Lindström’s growling, though ardent, can’t seem to shake their own lurid monotony throughout. Occasional grooving on tracks like “Bloodfalls” and “From the Valley of the Defilement” prove the band’s hooky capability, but these interesting moments prove all too brief. ’90s Swedeath enthusiasts may extract something memorable here (like the intro riff in “Stillborn in a Dying World), and it’s certainly played to a T, but the onerous weight of D-beat tail-chasing won’t sustain anyone’s attention for long. –Dylan Chadwick

Of Wairwulfs and Bluotvarwes
Street: 10.25.11
Wizard = Manowar + Gravedigger
Sorry guys, Wizard isn’t a dope-ass fuzz rock band with a derivative name (learned that one that hard way). Turns out they’ve been around for a good while now, co-opting the Norse lyrical ideas of their brethren and earning an incessant, but well-deserved “German Manowar” tag. Heavy on the D & D tip (Castlevania for the less-nerdy), rife with battle-imagery (specifically the thirty years war) and an adoration for the fantasy work of Andre Wiesler, Of Wairwulfs and Bluotvarwes is a record sure to get slammed with every micro-genre modifier imaginable. Battle-metal. Power-Metal. Epic Fantasy-metal. Whatever. That stuff’s all corny…and I can’t figure out what in the hell a “Bluotvarwe” is (based on lyrics alone I’m going to assume it’s a ghostly insect that feeds on human brains). What’s important is that Wizard is a no-nonsense metal band, and at its core this is a no-nonsense record. A soaring riff-buffet of dazzling guitars (“Sign of the Cross”), propellant drums, iron grooves (“Messenger of Death”) and Sven D’anna’s stellar vocal presence (“Bletzer?” Woah!). Well trodden, and admittedly formulaic, it’s a resoundingly competent platter of steel-willed, fist pounding heavy metal that’ll satisfy the most voracious headbanger’s hunger. –Dylan Chadwick