A deep, dirty love of the riff is one of the self-professed defining characteristics of the beast known as Bison b.c. While the sludge quartet has never shied away from unconventional, progressive compositions, they’ve taken a few more steps into the unknown with Lovelessness. This combination of riff-lust and the group’s willingness to follow a song wherever it damn well wants to go makes Bison’s third full-length an engaging listen that’s full of brain-rattling surprises.
A good example of the polarity at play on Lovelessness is “Anxiety Puke / Lovelessness”, which goes from balls-out punk-thrash to big, doomy Sludge under 90 seconds. Flailing arm windmills give way to slow, squinty-eyed, thick-skulled headbanging. The nine-minute combo track builds from there, taking its sweet-ass time with its stumbling riffs and lead-noodling until its grand, slow-banging conclusion.
The album kicks off with “An Old Friend”. Harmonized descending leads guide you to rusty rhythm guitar that sounds like a chainsaw that hasn’t been serviced in 30 years but can still mow right through you. It doesn’t take long for co-vocalist James Farwell’s demented, throat-scraping yell to make its first appearance – it’s in fine form, to say the least. This guy must gargle with screws and rinse with paint thinner.
My early favourite is “Last and First Things”. An ambience of windy desolation is the backdrop to some deceivingly loose back-and-forth riff-play. The song beefs up with the introduction of the band’s keynote rhythm guitar until finally, halfway through the eight-minute piece, the tune revs and revs, squeals its tires into smoke, and gives in to the temptation to open ‘er up and floor it. But, this isn’t a straight road. Bison being Bison, it isn’t long before the up tempo shredding is (enjoyably) interrupted by menacing slabs of sludge. Solid.
If I had to pick a second standout track, it would have to be “Blood Music”. This monster clocks in at almost 11 minutes – we’re venturing into new territory here. “Blood Music” starts out with a palm-muted rhythm guitar that teases and hints at the brutal riff to come. Bison’s music in general has a menacing, threatening quality to it, but things seem to get even darker on this one. It’s as if the unhurried approach allows the music to flex and dig a little further down than it has before. An ominous bass riff two-thirds of the way through, draped with distorted atmospherics, provides a sense of oncoming peril. Guitars eventually join in on the riff, providing their own edge and colour as the drums build to what is arguably the heaviest moment on Lovelessness – a spine-shivering, doomy slow-burn that will not only make you bang your head, but shake it in disbelief at how bloody heavy this all is.
So instead of pissing away your cash on Taken 2 or some other ill-thought out, idiotic expense, support one of your province’s – hell, your nation’s burgeoning metal stalwarts. Be a dear and go buy Lovelessness. You can grab it online at Metal Blade, or better yet, get the real thing at Scrape Records.
Bison will destroy the Rickshaw Theatre on December 1st with Erosion and Mass Grave.