Royal Tusk makes a bold return with their third release, and second album, out October 26th via Entertainment One. A tonal and generic shift for the band, while done well, offers a completely different experience for listeners.
The flavour profile of Tusk II is considerably more acidic than their previous work. The harsher take on the band’s musical style, heard in the single “Aftermath”, which came out in August, defines the entire album. The musical and vocal quality, even the sheer volume, is at a constant level an older Royal Tusk would consider only for a song’s climax. This seems intentional, as can be gathered from press materials. The new amped attitude is emblematic of recent years, an era of constant emotional climax.
This specific choice does not appeal to me. My heart is personally already beating too fast nowadays, and the sometimes hundreds-of-beats-per-minute attack of songs like “Aftermath” doesn’t help and doesn’t yield. I also wondered whether Daniel Carriere’s mostly permanent stay in his grainier and intense upper register is as necessary of a choice as it seems on paper. This kind of performance was featured in moments of their earlier work, usually to effectively heighten a song’s mood or reinvigorate earlier themes, especially on DealBreaker from 2016, but this style is about 95% of the new album, and, to me, distracts from both the vocal performance and the focus of the song, except on tracks like “Die Knowing”, where the attitude makes it seem fitting and inevitable. The highs of this album are great highs, but the moments of down-time are too few and far between, and I have a high bar of intrigue for staying in the fire that long. This is definitely a new area of the genre they’re inhabiting, and not one I’m going to spend my free time with the way I did with Mountain and DealBreaker.
Here’s the amped new track, “Aftermath”.
That being said, the distinctive grooves of Royal Tusk are still present here, and the points of this album that I disagree with are aesthetic and cosmetic. Royal Tusk, at their most biting (or goring), remains smartly done and well-produced. The musical choices are sensible and surprising in equal measure. The out-of-chorus transition on lead track “First Time” is a well-transcribed page from a top-shelf prog rock playbook. The synth-y delay in the background of the second verse of “Aftermath” is another perfect choice that freshens the next act of the song. The opening lines of “Freedom” have the kind of seamless, alluring flow you’d find throughout their Mountain EP, and the chorus of “Northern Town” is big and iconic in a beautifully pictographic sense. While this isn’t the motivation-charged follow-up from Royal Tusk that I wanted, it’s a really respectable one.
This work is good news for fans of the fuzzier side of rock, and a grittier vocal style. It’s a well-performed tonal shift for the band overall, and I can think of at least five people I’d heartily recommend it to, but, despite the good I’ve found, it’s not an album of theirs I’ll turn to from here on out.
Tusk II Track Listing:
01. First Time
03. Die Knowing
09. Northern Town
10. Long Shot
Run Time: 35:54
Release Date: October 26, 2018
Record Label: Entertainment One