By Matt Hinch
Ever since 2008’s Quiet Earth, Bison BC have not only been one of my favourite Canadian bands, but one of my favourite bands period. My adoration for the band naturally means that my expectations for Lovelessness were unrealistically high. As expected, the first couple spins didn’t clear the bar. Yet after a few deep breaths and a change in mindset from reviewer to fan, it all fell into place. All the things that make Bison great are still present. The tone, the power, the volume. What’s missing is drummer Brad McKinnon. On the bright side, replacement Matt Wood is more than up to the task. Starting off with “An Old Friend” the unmistakable Bison sound assaults the listener. Make all the comparisons you want. Bison is Bison. Forget elephants marching, this is rampaging brontosaurs. Each riff, each note, impacting with massive tonnage, and when the bottom completely drops out, it makes bones lose structural integrity. The track’s immensity countered with soul and furious energy is just a taste of what’s to come.
Maza Anzai‘s bass cuts through the ringing guitars of “Anxiety Puke/Lovelessness” as deep as a dagger to the heart. The personal and emotional nature of the lyrics is fascinating. Here we have a band of rough and tough looking guys playing burly, sludge infused metal yet pouring their hearts out lyrically. Not that this hasn’t been done before but Bison just do it so well. This is displayed superbly as the emotional swell of “Last and First Things” builds until it spills over and pulls the listener in close, while the second half of the song pummels you with anguish channeled through aggression.
It’s worth noting that Lovelessness was produced by the acclaimed Sanford Parker. Not that I feel this was necessary by any means, but the production is incredible. Every pick scrape, finger slide or palm mute is picked up. And (because I play bass) the bass sounds better than ever. Nowhere on Lovelessness is this more apparent than on the album’s magnum opus “Blood Music”. Solitary guitar leads to crushing doom-edged riffs courtesy of co-guitarists/vocalists James Farwell and Dan And. There’s even southern swagger and noise packed into the track. It’s on “Blood Music” the most that I feel Bison’s lyrics are an extension of the instruments. I get the impression that a big part of what is said depends on how the words sound as they are shouted in that easy, yet strained way that Bison does it.
Bison BC’s punk roots return in the whirlwind known as “Clozapine Dream”. (S.T.R.E.E.T.S. is still one of the coolest band names ever.) Interactive and exhausting, the furious energy, moment to catch your breath and scream-along part should make it a staple of their live show. Before that exhaustion fully takes hold, album closer “Finally Asleep” drags along lamenting until it streaks towards the light with thrash-like fervor and finishing on a note of resignation.
Like a good blues song Lovelessness connects with the listener. The heart feels what the musicians feel. Pain, sorrow, anger, joy and lovelessness. Bison filter those feelings through vicious heaviness and impactful songwriting. No matter the transition these Vancouverites do it seamlessly and effortlessly. Nothing sounds forced. While aurally oppressive, the tone exudes a warmth that envelopes the listener making Lovelessness a whole body experience. Enjoy it any way you like, but I recommend external speakers at maximum volume to attain the full music-to-humanity frequency resonance. Like their namesake, the impression Bison BC leaves is deep and long lasting. A symbol of power and rugged beauty.
But, wait, where is “Wendigo Part IV: The Return of Wendigo”?.