Black Tusk announce “The Way Forward” with lead single “Brushfire”.

Black Tusk go way back. Guitarist Andrew Fidler and drummer James May both grew up down in the swamps of Savannah, Georgia, where they’ve been banging heads together for the past 19 years.

The last Black Tusk album found these metal punks fighting to steady their footing after bassist Jonthan Athon passed away. Today, the band are blazing full steam ahead by announcing their seventh album. The Way Forward pulls no punches; it charges straight-on behind their new, albeit familiar lineup. Long-time collaborator Chris “Scary” Adams has now joined as an official member alongside new bassist Derek Lynch, who’s run in the same circles around Savannah and the national touring circuit. Together, these four have cleared a path into the future by relying more on what Black Tusk does best: heavy, no-frills riffing backed by rough and rowdy gang vocals.

“We do use a few lays, effects and synths here and there for texture and space”, says Scary, who not only chipped in on vocals and guitars but pulled double duty by producing and mixing The Way Forward. “This record still feels raw and powerful. It captures the feel of being at a Black Tusk show”.

Watch the video for lead single “Brushfire”:

“I watch you burn!” That’s how Black Tusk burst through the door on their first single in seven years. Though he contributed to T.C.B.T., Lynch makes his first impression as an official member of the band on “Brushfire”. He comes out firing, too, already spitting and full of righteous fury.

“Thematically, I wanted the lyrics in all of its aggressiveness to keep with the idea of pushing forward even when the world is trying to drag you down”, Lynch says. “The mood of the lyrics needed to match the pulverizing tempo of the song”.

Around the halfway point of “Brushfire”, Black Tusk break for an eerie, pinging, bass-heavy interlude. “Reach up toward the wall / climbing just to fall”, intones May, like he’s playing with a voodoo doll. But don’t get it twisted; “Brushfire” burns hot and fast. “I am your burden” Fidler screams while Scary lays down the hammer with a mean, ugly, foot-stomping riff.

“It’s been 19 years since we started this band”, says Fidler. “That’s seen us have some success and some setbacks, some label changes and lineup changes. One thing has remained steadfast though: our love for playing music. This record represents just that, our steadfast resolve to keep making music together as a band and evolve our sound. This is The Way Forward”.

Tracklist: 1. Out Of Grasp – 2:47 2. Brushfire – 2:22 3. Harness (The Alchemist) – 2:35 4. Lessons Through Deception – 2:14 5. Breath Of Life – 5:12 6. Dance On Your Grave – 2:54 7. Against The Undertow – 3:06 8. Lift Yourself – 3:31 9. Ocean Of Obsidian – 2:50 10. Flee From Dawn – 3:38 11. The Way Forward – 4:40 // Total runtime: 35:54

“The big theme of this record is putting your life back together.” That’s Black Tusk guitarist / vocalist Andrew Fidler talking about the band’s new album, The Way Forward. “When everything seems like it’s against you, put your head down and push through. Take those bad things that are happening and use them to help create.”

The Way Forward might be the Savannah swamp metal crew’s seventh album, but it marks many firsts for Black Tusk. It’s their first with their new lineup, which sees guitarist Chris “Scary” Adams and bassist Derek Lynch joining Fidler and drummer James May. Which also makes it Black Tusk’s first record with a two-guitar lineup. “We were able to add leads and harmonies and all kinds of stuff on the new record that we haven’t done in the past,” Fidler says. “As far as our records go, this one has the most guitar work.”

You can hear it in the squealing solo of “Dance on Your Grave,” the killer harmonies on ripper “Harness (The Alchemist),” and the glorious dual guitar interplay of the powerful title track.

“‘The Way Forward’ is my favorite song on the record,” Fidler says. “It’s based on a personal experience that everyone can probably relate to. I got divorced in 2020, and I kinda felt like my entire world was collapsing when that happened. But I pulled myself out of it. I realized that this one thing ending in my life isn’t the end of everything. I’m gonna find a way forward. I’m gonna figure out how to live my life and create and be happy and make new relationships. Which is what I’ve done.”

In true Black Tusk fashion, the new lineup has expanded their triple-vocal approach to quadruple. “Everyone is doing vocals,” Fidler says. “That’s always been a thing in Black Tusk. Derek said he’d never done heavy vocals before, so I was like, ‘Well, here’s the mic. Here’s some words. Yell at it and see if you like it.’ I was blown away the first time he did it. It sounded good as fuck.”

That’s Lynch on lead single “Brushfire,” a song for which he wrote the main riffs and lyrical concept. “That was my first real contribution to the band,” the bassist says. “Thematically, I wanted the aggressiveness of the lyrics to keep with the idea of pushing forward even when the world is trying to drag you down. The mood of the lyrics needed to match the pulverizing tempo of the song.”

The lyrics for second single “Dance on Your Grave” were written by May, who moved from Savannah to Athens, GA, in the time since Black Tusk’s last album. “It’s about his struggles through Covid and what this lifestyle can do to people,” Fidler says. “It’s about getting past the party lifestyle and continuing to do things that are creative.”

Meanwhile, “Breath of Life” distills Black Tusk’s lyrical philosophy into a righteous five-minute pummeling. “Scary came up with the main riff of this song, and it’s one of my favorite riffs on the record,” Fidler says. “I wrote the lyrics, and it’s just about darkness crushing everything. The world is a fucked-up place that we have to navigate through. That’s what a lot of Black Tusk songs are about.”

Black Tusk recorded The Way Forward at Adams’ own Hidden Audio studio just outside of Savannah. Adams engineered the album and the whole band produced. “I actually helped him build the studio in the detached garage next to his house,” Fidler explains. “Me and my carpentry company went out there to do it, and Scary helped.”

“We had about 90% of the riffs and song structures going into the studio, while still experimenting with ideas and inspirations,” Adams explains. “Sometimes we completely reworked parts, which made all the difference. For example, early versions of ‘Breath of Life’ and ‘The Way Forward’ are quite different than the record, and I love where they ended up. Though we did use a few effects and synths here and there for texture and space, to me this record still feels raw and powerful. It captures the feeling of being at a Black Tusk show.”

The cover art for The Way Forward was done by Brian Mercer, who also created the sleeve for Black Tusk’s 2018 album, T.C.B.T. “T.C.B.T. had a dark cover because it was a dark time for the band,” Fidler says, referring to the period immediately after the passing of their longtime friend and bassist Jonathan Athon. “This time, it’s full blown, full-color Black Tusk. Brian Mercer and James collaborated on the concept, and Brian really knocked it out of the park.”

“The title is kind of a double play,” Fidler says. “It’s the first record with the new lineup, and this is the direction we’re taking the band in. We’ve been doing Black Tusk for 19 years now, and we still love it. That’s why we called it The Way Forward.”

Black Tusk line-up: Andrew Fidler: guitar, vocals / James May: drums, vocals / Derek Lynch: bass, vocals / Chris “Scary” Adams: guitar, vocals

Recording Studio: Hidden Audio – Producer/sound engineer: Chris “Scary” Adams – Mixing studio and engineer: Chris “Scary” Adams – Mastering studio and engineer: Brad Boatright at Audiosiege – Cover artwork: Brian Mercer