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Set The Dial
Format: Audio CDChange
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Set The Dial is the fourth full-length studio album (or the third, depending on your views on the matter of record deals are) from American `Swamp Metal' trio Black Tusk; it was released in 2011 quickly following up their breakthrough release Taste The Sin from 2010.

The album picks up in part where the last one left off; Andrew Fidler, Jonathan Athon and James May (not the same one from Top Gear, obviously) all return, John Dyer Baizley from Baroness handles the artwork once again and musically the band continue on their fast paced sludgey, aggressive path.

Where the album differentiates itself from earlier releases however is in the overall power and attitude, where their previous albums where rough and ready, erupting with barely contained rage that resulted in a sloppy and messy although utterly compelling sound, Set The Dial is far more direct and focused... and all the more powerful because of it, concentrating both on their Southern edge and on grooves bigger in a way.

Newcomers to the band should probably check this album out first before delving into their back catalogue, it contains some of their finest crafted and most memorable work to date, the only (potential and circumstantial) flaws in which are in relationships with old material and therefore bypassed by being a new fan.

Some older fans however may think of this as something of a commercialization upon initial listens, which is understandable, (The instrumental track `Resistor' for example would be out of place on any of their other works, but is a fantastic song that could easily win them many new fans) but the fact is that Set The Dial is just an absolutely phenomenal metal album, and you really should give it a few listens and fair chance before making a judgment, as the actual quality of the songwriting is unquestionable.

Usually, the band's speed and hardcore punk origins, as well as a lack of progressive rock influence separate them from the other Savannah, Georgia based bands with which they share sonic similarities and artwork contributions (Baroness, Kylesa) as well as non-Savannah bands like Red Fang and Mastodon who they also share elements of a collective sound with, with this new record however they now sound a little closer to the aforementioned artists thanks to their increasingly professional sound and yet the band have also carved out a new niche for themselves as well.

Set The Dial is still a dirty and raw album of aggressive and mostly brief and up-tempo numbers by anyone else's standards, no track ever reaches five minutes in length and the still vocals are low and harsh, there are still the pounding drums that often vary to tom hammering. The only difference is that now there is more space in the mix and songs can have more moods than just raw uncontrolled hatred, there are subtleties and a lot of grooves too for example. Highlights include the (almost) title track `Set The Dial To Your Doom' as well as `Ender Of All' and the groove laden `Carved In Stone.'

Overall; If you haven't heard much Black Tusk before you should really pick up a copy of this masterfully crafted record and if you are an existing fan look forward to it, but in the knowledge that it will be slightly different to the previous records (while still containing 90% of their signature sound of course) Regardless of what style the band play, as an album and on its own merits, this is utterly compelling stuff that I highly recommended.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Savannah in Georgia is the home of Southern gothic and is famous as the location of the Bonaventure Cemetery the epicenter of John Berendt's disturbing wonder novel "Midnight in the garden of good and evil". A setting that is draped in its eerie glory with Spanish moss. It comes as little surprise therefore that this small town in the Deep South also harbours a thriving swampy rock scene of dark hard rock bands who are threatening to break out and take over America. Baroness and Kylesa are two of the other emerging big names but search the web and you will also find Dead Perspective and a range of other acts that make this town the "sludge rock" capital of the US.

Black Tusk's fourth album "Set the dial" is a hard rock feast full of riffs that go back to Kyuss and Soundgarden and with enough volume to permanently trouble the neighbours Jack Russell and drown out any interference from bonfire night fireworks. It however is no dumb noise fest but an intelligent album whose drummer has clearly studied his Jon Bonham and a band who are vice like in their musical discipline from constant touring across the region. Well done to the trio of Andrew Fidler (guitar, vocals), Jonathan Athon (bass, vocals and James May (drums, vocals).

Anyone seeking out the power-driving "Carved in stone", the menacing metal of "Crossroads and thunder" or the fantastic huge gothic rock of "Set the dial to the doom" will not be disappointed. It's the sort of music equivalent of Soviet Tanks on the move at the Battle of Kursk. Here you will find no Mastadon style 12 minute metal prog epics or brain pulverising death metal but songs which come in usually under four minutes and which you can sing to albeit you would need a tin of Strepsils to repair the damage. This is good old fashioned hard rock that Black Sabbath fans would happily give a fair hearing not least the opener "Bring me darkness" where you sense that they have acknowledged their Southern heritage by sneaking in a very short Allman Brothers riff, although it is so subtle you could miss it amidst the huge cacophony. Helpfully your reviewer has a local resident expert that can be consulted on the pedigree of this music, namely a teenage son who plays this stuff almost uninterrupted from dawn to tusk and has already purloined this disc. "Set the dial' has hugely impressed him and in this his decrepit old parent happily acquiesces. A tremendous album and a brilliant cover to boot.
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