'Tree Of No Return' is grim. Very grim. And not, of course, in a muddy black metal way or a sub-frequency drone way - Tusk's medium is more towards intense, discordant noisecore with a miserable and hopeless air about it, courtesy of the King-Buzzo-meets-gargling-serial-killer vocals. Coupled with Aaron Turner's dripping, ominous artwork, 'Tree Of No Return' is an utterly bleak spasm of twisted riffs and obtuse arrangements, geared towards rendering the album (nearly - it's less than 20 minutes long) as a whole piece rather than a collection of songs. Not that they much resemble 'songs' anyway.
The production is murky, which is not helped by the general nastiness of the riffs, but what one loses in clarity is more than made up by successful delivery. Of course it's possible to draw parallels with other bands, and if pushed I'd name Discordance Axis, 'Times Of Grace'-era Neurosis, Pig Destroyer at their creepiest and naturally Pelican (the loose, ringing dischord riffs are equally as apparent here, if not more so), but somehow they don't seem to add up to Tusk. The reason for this is that 'Tree Of No Return' is technically a concept album telling the story of a man losing himself to madness, and none of the above bands have tried this approach. As the music progresses, it gets more unhinged and by the time the squealing psychedelic insanity of 'Ursus Arctus - Walk The Valley' subsides, you'll feel like you've been in a kind of sick musical washing machine. It is constantly edgy.
Plus, the CD-ROM features are excellent. We're treated to a raw-as-hell promo as well as a few even-rawer-than-hell live videos from several obscure locations inside America, each offering a snapshot of Tusk's frantic and occasionally terrifying live performance.
Mission accomplished, then, for Tusk. Sadly, it's been so well accomplished that one has to be in a seriously deranged mood to play it at all. But that's no obstacle for me, nor for most of Tusk's potential market (HydraHead-Heads), so 'Tree Of No Return' is a winner in my book.
One more thought: if this ever gets picked out of a second-hand dump bin on the strength of its artwork (which is considerable), I would absolutely love to see the punter's face when he listens to it.