Siberian Tusk – Reapers By Trade Review

Writers here at AMG have often noted that releasing an album in the mid-December wasteland is a fool’s errand. While recency bias is certainly prevalent among album reviewers in general, it’s impossible for underground bands to build the word of mouth necessary to make multiple year’s end lists. Moreover, even more prominent bands will miss out on opportunities to end up on fan’s holiday wishlists. In sum, minimal exposure, nonexistent sales, and reviewers’ often justified assumptions about the quality of releases in late December prove a death knell for these releases. Bands and labels of course know this and avoid December like the plague. It was then with significant trepidation that I picked up Reapers By Trade, the second album from Norwegian desert/stoner rockers Siberian Tusk.

Siberian Tusk’s sound certainly owes much to stoner rock progenitors like Kyuss/Queens of the Stone Age, but even more so to Audioslave. While Siberian Tusk’s promo material emphasizes a punk aesthetic, it doesn’t translate to the band’s sound. No, this cocktail is an alternative base with several dashes of butt rock bitters. The Audioslave comparisons are apparent from the outset, as guitarist Kent Rune kicks “Rich & Poor” off with a near-carbon copy of the whirring helicopter-effect intro from “Cochise” like a Norwegian Tom Morello. Vocalist/guitarist Begil channels Chris Cornell’s timbre as he snarls, sneers, and bites his way through Reapers, even if he understandably lacks Cornell’s power and range.

What saves Siberian Tusk from being an Audioslave clone is their sense of groove and swing derived from their stoner influences including Kyuss and, of course, Black Sabbath. Drummer René, in particular, knows exactly when to push the tempo forward and when to lean into a languid backbeat swing. As a result, most of the individual tracks bear the hallmarks of an organic band rooted in hazy and boozy jam sessions. Too many stoner rock and metal bands often mistake repetition for groove and feel incredibly stiff as a consequence, which is not the case here. Instead, René’s interplay with bassist Inge Morten provides a far more varied foundation on which Rune and Begil can build traditional stoner and desert riffs. The best moments on Reapers marry the swing and start/stop stomp of Sabbath with propulsive alternative (“Eternal Bliss,” “Two Fast Uppercuts,” “Fucked Up”).

Where Siberian Tusk gets into trouble is forging Reapers into a cohesive whole and when it indulges in more butt rock tendencies. Several songs (“Goes Around,” “Desert Sun,“ “Truth Be Told“) feature the same vibrato-drenched guitar. While these similar intros tempt the listener to zone out through Reapers, they’re paradoxically periodically punctuated by the jarring tracks that lean more into butt rock. The opening to “Hung Over,” for example, channels the worst vocal impulses of Nickelback. Subsequent track “Reaper Blues” features a heavily flanged drum intro that has far more to do with glam and hard rock than the drier sound associated with desert/stoner rock and overwhelms the creamy fuzzed-out guitar. The third deadly sin, for this reviewer at least, are the often poor lyrics. I tend to focus more on instrumentation and composition when I listen to albums, but the lyrics to “Hung Over” and “Fucked Up,” for example, can be downright distracting. If you like your stoner lyrics to feature more sci-fi (ala Sleep and The Sword) and fewer personal foibles, you’ll likely find yourself wanting to skip many of Reapers tracks.

Nevertheless, for listeners who are able to look past Siberian Tusk’s immediate alternative influences and relative unoriginality, there is much to enjoy about Reapers By Trade. While these Norwegians don’t create anything new on Reapers By Trade, they consistently craft mean and comparatively (for stoner) lean individual compositions. Reapers is unlikely to stay in my rotation in full, but I’ll likely revisit some of the choice cuts (“Eternal Bliss,” “Two Fast Uppercuts”) in the coming year. It’s a shame that the apparent earlier release date in 2022 was pushed back to December, because Reapers offers much more than your typical mid-December fare.

Rating: ​2.5/5.0
DR:​ 7 | ​Format Reviewed:​ 320 kbps mp3
Label:Hidden Noise Records
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide​: December 16th, 2022

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