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.