Following extensive tours with Mastodon and Kvelertak, Savannah hardcore sludge band Black Tusk have returned with the follow-up to their barreling 2011 album Set the Dial, the record that put them on the hipster-metal map. The Tend No Wounds EP is a terse torrent of fuzzed-out riffs, tumbling beats and vocals that rarely drop below a full-throated roar. Like High on Fire, Black Tusk’s songs are fast and melodic enough to pull themselves out of the muck of their guitar distortion, yet their swampy southern Savannah metal vibe remains (think early Mastodon and Kylesa). “Enemy of Reason” combines gallop with groove, “The Weak and the Wise” starts with baleful violin and a bass line redolent of “Sweet Dreams (are Made of This)” before blasting into doom-boogie slugfest. And the closer, “In Days of Woe,” ends the six-cut marathon with a riff as slippery as spilled blood and a minor key lick that’s part Slayer, part Sabbath.
While Tend No Wounds is a solid mix of quality bashers, it offers no real musical growth from Set the Dial. If it’s meant as a stopgap to give the band some cool new songs to play live before they release their fourth full-length, then fine. But if this is Black Tusk raging at their creative peak, the band could soon start losing fans seeking sonic development over sheer amp-rattling wattage.