Metal Monday #215 ft. Black Tusk
+ Holy Grail + Lord Silky + Vaporizer
Monday, February 29, 2016
18+ $7 ADV // $10 DOS
The Philadelphia-based label and the band formed a partnership that lasts to this day, first collaborating on their 2010 breakthrough Taste the Sin and then on their highly-anticipated 2011 follow-up, Set the Dial. Since then, they’re released a pair of EPs—2013’s Tend No Wounds and the digital-only 2014 EP Vulture’s Eye—and kept pounding the pavement in the United States, Europe, and the UK alongside bands like Red Fang, Kvelertak, Down, Municipal Waste, Fu Manchu, Inter Arma, Intronaut, and so many others, as well as being hand-picked to appear on Metallica’s Orion Festival in 2012.
In 2014, they hit the studio with their old friend and accomplished audio engineer, Joel Grind, to get back to work on a new album that is now slated for release in early 2016. Before they could get their new record into stores and jump back up in their big white tour van, though, the band suffered a setback beyond what most could even imagine.
In November 2014, mere weeks before the band was due to kick off their biggest tour yet, Athon was seriously injured in a motorcycle accident. Several days later, on November 9, 2014, he passed away at the age of 31, leaving behind hundreds of friends, family members, and his beloved dog Cutter as well as his brothers in Black Tusk. Support poured in from fans, friends, and fellow musicians from around the world; stunned, Andrew and James laid down their instruments and tried to process the loss. For a few weeks, the band’s future was uncertain, but ultimately, the remaining duo made the difficult decision to soldier on and carry on in Athon’s memory. Athon himself could have chosen no better successor than Corey Barhorst, a longtime friend and veteran musician who heads up his own project, Niche, and previously held down the low end for Kylesa. Barhorst initially joined the band as a live member in time for their European tour with Black Label Society, but after that, was welcomed into the fold as a full-blooded member of Black Tusk.
Black Tusk has lived through the kind of hardship and heartbreak that would cripple a lesser band, but it’s that dedication, and gumption, and pure bullheaded stubbornness that’s taken them around the world and as far away from the lacey Spanish moss and sweltering streets of Savannah than any of them could’ve dared dream. As of now, the band is readying the release of their new album which features Athon’s final recorded performance with his two brothers in arms. It will hurt to hear that roar of his ring out over Andrew’s riffs and James’ thunder, but it’ll be a good hurt: it means that part of him will always live on, just as the band he and his best friends founded a decade ago lives on. As Andrew, James, and now Corey hit the road to support this latest album and share a beer or three with the fans who stuck by them through it all, they’ll keep that memory alive, and keep taking care of business—and Taking Care of Black Tusk.
TCBT / RIP JVA
Formed in Southern California in 2008 when vocalist James Paul Luna and drummer Tyler Meahl diverged from Pasadena metal squadron White Wizzard and teamed up with San Diegan guitar hero Eli Santana, the band was called Sorcerer until it became clear that the moniker didn’t quite capture the rarefied nature of the members’ collective talents. Sorcerer became Holy Grail. The band became so unstoppable that California just couldn’t contain them and now, like their spiritual forefathers in Iron Maiden, Judas Priest and Dio, Holy Grail are poised to bring their hook-laden shred anthems to an arena near you.
Holy Grail are heavy metal personified, possessing a seemingly infinite arsenal of mind-blowing riffs, skyscraping vocal melodies and devastating drum dynamism. Not mention the kind of six-string acrobatics and straight-up power-shredding that would make Yngwie Malmsteen chuck the proverbial goat in sweep-picking solidarity. “We shred and we’re serious about it,” Luna offers. “This is not a tongue-in-cheek thing. It’s not throwback or retro. Holy Grail is a modern band with a new twist on the best of old-school metal with death metal riffs, modern breakdowns and power-metal singing. We just tried to pick stuff from all our favorite bands and make the best blend of metal we could.”
But don’t take our word for it—or Luna’s. The fine folks at Decibel magazine knew exactly what they were talking about when they hailed HOLY GRAIL as “the most exciting prefix-free metal band to come out of L.A. in the last two decades.” The esteemed editors at UK’s Metal Hammer nominated the gentlemen of the Grail for the magazine’s “Best New Band” award at their annual Golden Gods ceremony before Holy Grail even had an album out. But a certain tall, handsome genius over at Thrasher summed it up best when he proclaimed, “Holy Grail are the reason that heavy metal will never die.”
After basking in the glory of last year’s critically acclaimed “Improper Burial” EP, Holy Grail have finally unleashed their full-length debut, “Crisis In Utopia.” The title comes from a short story that Luna found in a 1930s-era sci-fi mag. Inspired, he transposed the tale’s apocalyptic theme to the band’s L.A. stomping grounds. “The way I envisioned it, it’s about what would happen to Hollywood in end-times, the fate of all these people who have no idea how to survive without modern conveniences,” he explains. “Then all the humans are killed off and the next species forms from their parasites. It was kind of a sick pleasure to write.”
Produced by former Nine Inch Nails member and A Perfect Circle collaborator Danny Lohner, Crisis In Utopia is loaded with instant fist-pumping classics like the title track ,“Call Of Valhalla,” and revamped versions of Improper Burial’s modern classics “Immortal Man” and “Fight To Kill.” Opener “My Last Attack” is especially impressive, showcasing Luna’s soaring pipes over a dizzying series of scorching twin leads and white-hot hooks. Insanely catchy jams like “Hollow Ground,” “Requiem” and “Chase The Wind” set an impossibly high standard for the next decade’s would-be arena anthems. Meanwhile, the instrumental interlude “Nocturne In D Minor” features guest shots from Anna Murphy and Meri Tadic of Swiss folk-metal luminaries (and recent tour mates) Eluveitie.
Triumphant performances at the UK’s Download Festival, Japan’s Loud Park and Germany’s Wacken Open Air have recently spread the Holy Grail gospel overseas, while North American tours with metal monoliths Amon Amarth, Exodus, 3 Inches Of Blood and Blind Guardian have left the home front in a sweat-drenched state of Holy Grail fever.
Yeah, you say, but What Does It All Mean? What it means is that you’ve been reading this thing for way too long. Just press fucking play already.
Holy Grail is:
James-Paul Luna – Vocals
Eli Santana – Lead Guitar
Alex Lee – Lead Guitar
Tyler Meahl – Drums
Blake Mount – Bass
They are loud, abrasive and confrontational onstage — front man Josh Cause is borderline impetuous. But they are also entertaining. They take not taking themselves seriously very seriously.