Bison BC: Dark Ages

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Bison BC: Dark Ages
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Bison BC: Dark Ages
Sludge Metal, Stoner Metal
Metal Blade Records
April 13th, 2010
Release length: 46:47
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Bison B.C. is a Stoner Metal act from British Columbia, Canada. While this group is still a newer act, having formed back in 2006, Dark Ages marks their second full-length album, and it’s quite an impressive one at that. The music through the album sounds very professional for the style that they play, and shows a great deal of maturity over their previous effort, Quiet Earth. Taking ques from other well known bands in the style, as well as some of the other inspirations their sound inherits, such as Mastodon and High on Fire, this group shows a lot of promise in this album’s seven songs.

The material presented here is a nice mixture between a Stoner Metal act, but not one of those happy giggily kind of stoners. Consider Bison B.C. more of an angry kind of stoner. The music on Dark Ages presents itself with the foundation of a strong Stoner Metal conception, but at the same time focuses on bringing in outside Sludge influence, which comes from hard hitting, chugging guitar riffs that really add to the song, and make the material often sound a little more upbeat without losing it’s overall bite. The vocal approach is much like many Sludge acts of today, being more of a growling shouting approach then anything, but it works out very well for the material here, fitting in nicely with the music that, while it’s not an original take on the vocal approach, you can’t picture any other formula to work with it, causing the listener to be hooked right away with the opening track, “Stressed Elephant”. This track ultimately shows the group’s ability to blend both the Stoner and Sludge aspects together, and doesn’t quite define the rest of the album, but makes for a great track that gets the listener ready for a wild musical ride.

Of course, the influence from some of the more well known Sludge acts of today is pretty obvious, especially that of Mastodon. There are some nods to the band throughout the album, which fans of that band’s releases Leviathan and more recent albums will pick up on quickly, such as the introductory music for “Fear Cave”. This song offers a great amount of variety outside of some idolworship at the start, such as the slower paced section that follows, which incorporates some gutteral vocals into the mix, before kicking into a fast paced two-step heavy section that sounds like Crossover Thrash and Sludge mixed well together in the vein of the aforementioned High on Fire. Of course, while much of this album channels some of the stand out acts of the style, it’s the way the music is performed that really makes Dark Ages stand out.

The music is performed in a manner that gives off a very distinct atmosphere, which, again, is reminiscent of earlier Mastodon material, but not quite the same, having a somewhat more upbeat feeling to the material as opposed to a lethargic kind of atmosphere that some of that band’s offerings have. The performance on Dark Ages is also just fantastic, due mostly to the great execution and somewhat technical aspects mixed with simpler riffs that just sound heavy due to the distortion and production quality, which is actually pretty clear for today’s standards, but the distortion used on the guitars and vocals just makes things sound a little more raw then they really are. The performance is also very energetic, which will have your blood pumping fast and your head banging hard against the harder hitting moments, though the slower sections of the release, such as the one on “Fear Cave”, will have the listener drifting away in the atmosphere the band is setting. Of course, lyrically, the album steps up to create a hint of originality with all the obvious influences being thrown about, focusing more on traditional Stoner Metal topics, as well as general Metal topics such as alchohol and overall darkness.

Overall, Dark Ages is a well done album, though there isn’t much originality in the mix. What it is, however, is a high octane Sludge and Stoner rush that incorporates a great amount of variety into the mix to keep the listener happy. “Two-Day Booze” is just a fast paced track that captures much of what many consider makes up Metal in the first place, and pays homage some of their inspirations well, as does “Fear Cave” and “Die of Devotion”. There’s plenty of nice mood-setting instrumentals that appear prior to the actual song, and take their time in establishing the setting, much like on “Wendigo Pt. 3 (Let Him Burn)”, though the actual song has more clear shades of Mastodon influence to the material.

Despite the fact that there’s a good deal of influence being displayed here, it seems to be more like an homage to those inspiring acts, as it’s well done, heavy, and leaves not one track feeling like filler or reptition. This new composition by Bison B.C. shows a group that has understood these concepts well, reforming their own sound in the process to something much stronger, and hopefully utilizing a release like this as more of a template then a reason to continue bowing before their idols. Either way, template or not, Dark Ages is definitely a step in the right direction for Bison B.C. as a group.

01. Stressed Elephant – 8:18
02. Fear Cave – 6:46
03. Melody, This is for You – 8:37
04. Two-Day Booze – 5:07
05. Die of Devotion – 5:07
06. Take the Next Exit – 5:18
07. Wendigo Pt 3. (Let Him Burn) – 7:34
Overall Score: 7.5/10


Digital review copy of this release provided by Metal Blade Records.