TUSKAR – The Tide, Beneath, The Wall EP

When a band gets billed as “nuclear sludge”, there’s a hint that their sound will be a teensy bit on the heavy side, but Miton Keynes duo Tuskar take the very notion of heavy and throw it out of the window.

‘The Tide’ – the opening track on their 2018 EP ‘The Tide, Beneath, The Wall – isn’t just heavy…it’s a veritable howl of pain. Several bars of slow and feedback driven guitar suggest an oppressive sound and, sure enough, when the riff eventually takes a hold, it’s positively devastating. Tuskar manage to make something that would already be heavy and make it sound more confrontational. Due to a love of lo-fi, this something that very much works in their favour during the more angular and drum-led passages of this number. The distorted riffs almost sound broken in places, such is the no-frills approach to the recording, while the drums echo in a way that suggests they were recorded live. Stretching to a full seven minutes, ‘The Tide’ is a tour-de-force of noise, which at it’s slowest unleashes a brilliantly muddy guitar sound that represents optimum sludge, while still finding time for some head-nodding doom riffs and a few angrier passages to give a sense of variety and scope within its minimalism.

‘The Wall’ takes everything you know about Tuskar thus far and severely cranks the tension. Across an absolutely devastating eight minutes, one of the slowest riffs you’ll ever encounter cranks its way through a wall of distortion, while heavy drums pound as if everything is emerging from the speakers at half speed. With sections that feature very little other than the residue left behind from the most elongated distortion, it’s somewhat of a relief when the drums hit something like a groove after six minutes. This tighter and riff-based approach doesn’t last long – and certainly never long enough – but it’s enough to add a genuine interest. The vocals, meanwhile, seem even less connected to the riffs than before, as heavily distorted howls desperately try and fight their way through some intense sludge…and lose. Not so much music as heavy art, Tuskar raise the bar pretty high in terms of challenging their doom and sludge loving audience. Packing as much fury and as many heavy riffs into almost half the time, ‘Beneath’ shows off a more accessible side to Tuskar’s music as more of a doom influence drives the main riff, which in turn allows the drums to hit upon a genuine groove. The echoing recording and maniacally distorted vocals are on hand to make sure that nothing ever comes close to having any crossover potential, but when finally hitting upon an angry, thrashing sound that appears to take the finest bits of Electric Wizard and meld them to Kurokuma’s wanton force, Tuskar fill these near five minutes with some absolutely cracking doom-sludge. Riffs, volume, distortion, anger and a tendency to weed out all but the most patient – it’s got everything you’d want from such a slab of extreme metal.

This is a seriously angry release, but then, if you lived in a town that offers a world of roundabouts and some concrete cows as its main source of entertainment, chances are, you’d be pretty furious too. Between the absolutely primal ‘Beneath’ and the sheer sledgehammer approach of ‘The Wall’, Tuskar make an absolutely blistering noise that’ll prove interesting – and essential – to sludge fans and absolutely unlistenable to almost everyone else. It’s brilliant…it’s frightening…and despite only running to nineteen minutes, it’s also incredibly tiring. It makes Kurokuma and BlackLab sound like lightweight pretenders. The grind, the noise, the intensities beyond intensity: with this EP, sludge metal has truly peaked.

December 2018