It's impossible to divorce this record from the tragedy of its context, to read Pillars of Ash as separate from grief. In late 2014, founding member Jonathan Athon passed away in a terrible road accident; for some time, it was unclear if the band would elect to continue to exist without him. Out of the profound mourning that the Savannah-based sludge metal band had to endure, the surviving members (guitarist Andrew Fidler and drummer James May) elected to release their final recordings with Athon, the record they were working on when a motorcycle accident claimed his life.
Thus, this pillar is a headstone, and also a work of great love and camaraderie. The thick, manic, sludge-sodden punk intensity that Black Tusk trademarked is ground deep into every track: "God's on Vacation" becomes a bellowing challenge to cosmic unfairness; "Bleed on Your Knees" is blazingly, relentlessly defiant.
The heart of this record is a furious commitment to survival. It's gutting. It's heartbreaking. And it's pretty goddamn beautiful. (Relapse)