I see an album titled Dark Ages and I cannot help but think of Soulfly. I see a band called Bison b.c. and I cannot help but think of Mastodon. In their own special ways, I can see a valid comparison of both of those bands to this one actually working. At the same time, however, Bison b.c. stand apart from them in the musical pantheon. Before pressing play my ears had never heard of this band before. This is their third career album and the second to be released through Metal Blade. After just a couple of songs, I had a very strong feeling I am going to like this band.
Besides their name, I am reminded of my first experience with Mastodon. It was a Rob Zombie concert in a small club just prior to the release The Devil's Rejects. It was an off day for Ozz-Fest and Zombie brought his band to town for a great rocking night. He brought with him the great bearded ones of Mastodon to open the show. It was like jam metal, unlike anything I had ever heard before. So began my affair with Mastodon which still continues.
That brings me to Bison b.c. Much like Mastodon, these guys have a big, open, heavy sound that feels equal parts planned and free form. The jam quality is quite fascinating. I have never been one for jam bands, they are good, sure, but tend to get a little repetitive after awhile. These metal jam bands are a different story altogether. It must have something to do with the fact that I am more of a metal guy and the idea of a jam, metal band is still pretty foreign to me.
Now, they aren't nearly as progressively minded as Mastodon are, but they don't have to be. They are doing their own thing just fine, which is a bit more straight up. Still, the music travels in the ways of epic length songs, drastic tempo changes, and wild shifts multiple times in the same song. During the little bit of research I did on them, I discovered a new term for their music. In a couple of places I saw the term "Neanderthal metal" used. Wow. There is an accurate term. There is something old school, low-fi, and do it yourself about the way these guys sound.
The production is nice, clear and definitely modern, but there is also a live quality to it. It is almost like they showed up with their equipment at the studio, did some minimal level adjustments and proceeded to blast through the album right then and there, live and with no overdubs.
The songs are long and the are only seven of them on Dark Ages. Still, ranging from just over five to over eight and a half minutes in length, they have plenty of room to stretch their legs. The songs meander in all directions bringing doom, thrash, stoner, and heavy metals together under one roof. It is a solid combination that leads to very good things. The only thing is that if unprepared, you could be inclined to lump them in with the Mastodon clones when in fact they are quite different. Yes, their styles do cross paths, there is something about Bison b.c. that allows them to occupy similar space while remaining true to themselves.
The album kicks things off with one of their longest offerings in "Stresssed Elephant." It is a huge slab of sludge. It may just be the best song on the album. It goes through a number of shifts while always remaining focused, not an easy feat if you ask me. Alongside this opener, you need to pay attention to "Melody, This is for You," which is another very strong song with an opening that I found rather hypnotizing. The album closes with another referred track in "Wendigo Pt. 3 (Let Him Burn)." It opens with acoustic guitars before going full blown around the 1:30 mark.
Dual growling vocalists, drums that lead you through the rhythm changes while never becoming boring, and guitars that have a rough edge of distortion and bleed together creating the big rhythmic tidal wave, there is a lot to like here.
What is there to say? You need to pick this up, give it a listen and be ready for its affect on your brain. The grooves get under your skin, the aggression with kick you in the gut, and then you will be helped up into the flow where you will lose yourself in their gigantic wall of jam metal.
Bottomline. With a single listen you will be trapped in their thrall. This is a very good album that caught me off guard. Stoner metal, Neanderthal metal, jam metal, whatever you want to call them won't matter as you will want to listen to them again.