Black Tusk – Passage through Purgatory

By Gruesome Greg

Before they even had an album available in stores, Black Tusk had built a good deal of hype, signing to Relapse and receiving second billing over The Gates of Slumber on a national tour with Zoroaster. At the Toronto gig, I asked if they had a record out, and was handed a card promoting the upcoming release of Taste the Sin, their Relapse debut. Unbeknownst to me, they had already released a full-length recording, though copies of Passage through Purgatory, initially issued on the Hyperrealist label, weren’t readily available at the time.

The rolling, winding riffs and raw-throated screams on “Mind Moves Something” bring Helmet to mind, though they occasionally operate at a faster pace. “End of Days” presents some forward thinking sludge, a little like Kylesa, especially in the shrieked vocals. “Falling Down” goes from blasts of angry hardcore punk to winding, sludge-prog noodling to some karate-choppable breakdowns, settling somewhere in between. “Call of the Sewer Rat” is a tasty instrumental that recalls Keelhaul both in name and in form.

This isn’t the first time a label has reissued a band’s debut upon signing them. Small Stone did the same thing with Lo-Pan recently, and if you go back a few years, so did Man’s Ruin with Sons of OTIS. However, in each of those instances, the debut was re-issued before the follow-up release—which is not the case here. Deluxe Edition or not, Passage pales in comparison to BT’s following effort, and I don’t think enough time has passed (roughly three years) for the original to become highly sought-out (a la Spacejumbofudge). Questionable timing aside, this is a solid, albeit less-than-spectacular slice of Georgia sludge.


Sean is the founder/publisher of; he has also written about metal for Exclaim!, Metal Maniacs, Roadburn, Unrestrained! and Vice.