13 April 2010
by Mike Strata
Good band names are, clearly, very hard to come by, and whilst “Bison b.c.” may not be top of the band-name class, they certainly deserve some extra points for choosing a name which perfectly evokes their sound. Whether their inspiration comes from the bovine beast of the same name, or perhaps the rock-hard end boss from Streetfighter II, there’s no doubt that the noise the band creates on Dark Ages is as heavy, muscular and powerful as either of their possible namesakes. Emerging from the same primordial stew as their sonic cousins Mastodon and Baroness, Bison b.c. serve up a heady mixture of metal and sludge with a few curveballs thrown in for good measure. A mixture which, in theory at least, sounds more than promising….but in reality there’s an unshakeable feeling that something is missing.
Opening track ‘Stressed Elephant’ hardly bolts out of the gates, it merely lumbers just like the perplexed pachyderm the title suggests, all sludgy riffs and bellowed vocals. The trumpet is not an instrument generally associated which the genre in which Bison b.c. operate, so when a few mournful horns appear in the song’s intro, it’s perhaps to be praised that the band are thinking outside the box. However, said trumpets only appear once, and in truth add little to the overall effect of the song – a case of trying too hard? Similarly, the band throw in some off-kilter acoustic passages throughout the course of the record which ultimately don’t seem to lead anywhere in particular – deeply dissatisfying.
‘Fear Cave’ desperately wants to be liked, with its mixture of tempos and even some hardcore-esque riffing. However, the gloomy chanting in the song’s midsection just comes off as a half-cut attempt at aping Torche, unfortunately more meandering than Meanderthal. The band fare much better when they go straight for the jugular like on ‘Two Day Booze’ and ‘Take The Next Exit’, adding a little more metal to their heavy. The former is built on a spectacular spiralling guitar lead which morphs into a satisfyingly pummelling groove, whilst the latter’s neck-snapping rhythms skilfully augment some of the album’s best riffs.
Watch HardRockChick interviews Dan And from Bison b.c.:
There is nothing inherently wrong with what Bison b.c. have produced on Dark Ages, it just feels as though they’re a little late to the party. Whilst Mastodon and Baroness are out on the roof smoking peyote, listening to Pink Floyd and gazing at the stars, Bison b.c. are still inside supping Special Brew and headbanging to Black Sabbath. No doubt diehard fans of monolithic metallic riffage and stone-age grooves will find something to their liking on Dark Ages however in reality, despite the trumpets and acoustic guitars there is little to distinguish this beast from the rest of the herd.
Sounds Like: Early Mastodon, Baroness and Torche with a sprinkling of iron filings on top.
Top Tracks: Two Day Booze, Take The Next Exit
Bison b.c. – Dark Ages tracklisting:
Melody, This Is For You
Die Of Devotion
Take The Next Exit
Wendigo Pt. 3 (Let Him Burn)