Black Tusk: Passage Through Purgatory (2011 Reissue)

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Black Tusk: Passage Through Purgatory (2011 Reissue)
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Black Tusk: Passage Through Purgatory
Sludge Metal
Hyperrealist, Relapse Records (2011)
February 5th, 2008 / May 24th, 2011
Release length: 34:13
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Sludge Metal act Black Tusk formed in Savannah, Georgie back in 2005. Since then, the group has accomplished quite a lot, at least in an underground sense. Given the popularity of the style as of late, it really shouldn’t come as a surprise either. After a few releases the band put out themselves, they found themselves signed to Hyperrealist to issue their 2008 debut full-length, Passage Through Purgatory. Since then, the band has put out a number of other releases, all accumulating to signing with Relapse Records. But, with their debut being one of the more pivotol points of the band’s career, one can only ask what Passage Through Purgatory really did for the band, and what exactly did it offer the listeners?

In keeping with the Sludge Metal sound of today, the album’s audio quality has a cleaner production then what you would expect. However, this doesn’t really apply to the instruments. The guitars here do still come through as being recorded in a rather top-notch studio, but have a bit of a dirty distortion that has become popular with today’s somewhat Punk fueled Rock acts. It ends up sounding pretty good and giving the music that late seventies, early eighties vibe that many can associate with the sound from when that sound was the most popular. On top of that, you also have a pretty loud and dominant bass presence that takes that dirty, sharp guitar sound and compounds it with a very blunt side to give the recording a much heavier sound that is complimented by the somewhat deeper thuds of the bass kick from the drum kit. The snares also have a pretty rich sound that comes through a lot lower in tone, though it’s mixed well with some higher, tighter sounds as well, and cymbols that come through pretty commanding in the mix. The vocals here are a crystal clear screaming that ties the sound all together nicely in a manner that you cannot help but feel perfectly fits the cleaner tone of the album.

Really, you wouldn’t think such a clean sound to a Sludge Metal album would work so well for it, but it really does. This is largely due to the solid material the band put together for this release, as well as the amount of energy Black Tusk brings with them. “Witch’s Spell” showcases that clearer sound and it’s heavier edge well with a bubbling cauldron, or possibly a bongh being prepped for usage (to anyone spending too much time with obvious Stoner Rock/Metal material about narcotics), that quickly shifts into a crunchy, groovey instrumental that bleeds into “Fixed in the Ice.” The track definitely captures a strong vintage Rock quality to it’s catchy material, sporting a nice abrasive side to it’s headbang worthy aggression. “Mind Moves Something” can essentially be descrived the same way, and it feels like “Fixed in the Ice” does bleed into it through a nice transition. This song has a much faster pace that gives it a sharper edge, and at times can even sound a little on the ruthless side. This track does have more of an official end without feeling like it shifted into the next song in any way, and overall seems to feel like it goes a little further musically compared to the previous song.

That much faster approach is something you’ll find on the rare side for Passage Through Purgatory. Much of the album centers on sounding heavy and as dirty as possible given it’s already rather clean sound. Many of the songs are just downright catchy thanks to the strong groove that can be found in many of them. “Prophecy One by One” is the perfect example of this. The song’s heavier, more aggressive sound really brings a groove that is undeniably addicting for much of the song, leading to plenty of moments where you’ll find yourself banging your head along without even realizing it. And that essentially sets up the rest of the release after the random “Interlude” track, which introduces and bleeds into “End of Days.” From that point on, Black Tusk really focus on offering up solid music that will simply have you banging your head along to the beat no matter what situation you’re listening to the music in. “Call of the Sewer Rat” won’t really have this effect on you though, but it’s definitely one of the dirtier songs of the release, and the far more distorted guitars of the instrumental towards the end really set up a bit of a Stoner Rock influence once more that just puts it over the top to close out the album well.


The 2011 reissue of Passage Through Purgatory offers up quite a bit for listeners. The new version of the album has been “repackaged,” as well as remastered audio. While the original pressing was surprisingly clear for Sludge Metal release, this remastered almost sterilizes it, but the keyword here is almost. The songs are definitely louder and have a cleaner tone to them, all of which really showcase the band’s energy well, which is the bigger selling point then the dirtier Sludge Metal sound. On top of that, the reissue also comes with two bonus tracks, as well as cuts “Call of the Sewer Rat” down to a simple just shy of three minute instrumental. Both of the additional songs are a little rougher then the original pressing, having a deeper sound and rawer quality to them that accentuates the Sludge Metal sound better then the rest of the remastered material here.

“Beneath” finds the band putting a really crunchy, dirty, and groovey song together that takes advantage of the raw nature well to create a more intense sound to it that you can really get behind, using some nice transitions to change the music up throughout the track. The only problem here is that, as you go along with the song, there’s just nothing all that incredible with it to hold the listener’s attention, and the last minute or so feels a little drawn out. “Fatal Kiss” provides a little more energy to the mix, which allows the song to really take off right away and feel far more abrasive. It also has enough catchy material and strong enough rhythm to it that you’ll immediately start banging your head along to the solid performance.


Passage Through Purgatory is a very strong release from Black Tusk, and overall the album is highly enjoyable for fans of the Sludge Metal movement. While the release starts off heavy and intense, it eventually just fades into dirtier material that is just solid, headbang worthy music from start to end. Each track works well with one another, and never really offers the listener filler or bland moments. It’s a strong release that is well deserving of your attention, and makes it clear why Black Tusk is quickly becoming a band to not be taken lightly in this field. With it’s recent reissue, the choice is yours as to which to obtain. Both albums do have some varying tones and sounds to them, and while the remastered audio on the 2011 Relapse Records version isn’t that dramatically different or even that bad, both do give off completely different experiences all together, making each worth checking out for their own reasons, even if you own one at this point. Of course, if you haven’t heard either, then now is the perfect time to check out whichever version you can.

01. Witch’s Spell – 0:59
02. Fixed in the Ice – 2:59
03. Mind Moves Something – 3:02
04. Interlude – 1:26
05. End of Days – 3:57
06. Prophecy One by One – 3:29
07. Falling Down – 3:20
08. Breaking the Backs of Men – 3:32
09. Call of the Sewer Rat – 2:59
10. Beneath – 4:28
11. Fatal Kiss – 4:02
Initial Score: 8.5/10

2011 Reissue Score: 8.5/10


Digital review copy of this release provided by Relapse Records.