Sludge? Stoner? Doom? Probably a fluid mix of all three. Whatever subgenre they pertain to, Bison (formerly known as Bison B.C.) delivers another solid album that successfully manages to challenge the rest of their discography.
Bison’s fourth LP You are not the Ocean you are the Patient was released on June 23rd, 2017 on Pelagic Records. The album continues with the band’s well-established “skate-thrash” vibe while showing significant maturation within the instrumental and lyrical themes. Their discography reveals a glowing pattern that shows through most of their records; that being a longer, more diverse opening track, followed by a full-throttle thrasher, and an instrumental somewhere before the end of the album. Their newest release doesn’t differ. This pattern sheds light on what I believe to be the group’s most redeemable factor, that being a sturdy theme portrayed through consistently good music.
The aforementioned “maturation” reveals itself mostly through the lyrical themes and visual representation of the album. Since their inception the band has delivered a stoner-esque yet professional vibe which can be seen best on their 2008 release Quiet Earth’s cover art, depicting a divine-looking bison floating upon a smoke-filled canoe through outer space. While sporting a less-serious image, the lyrics maintain a surreal representation of desolation, human environmental impact, and our bestial roots. While they successfully managing to merge their stoner vibe and meaningful message in the past, they clearly chose to dress their newest album in a more professional outfit.
The album’s cover art offers the view of an ominous and dreary mountain range in grayscale. The image suits the record well, as it maintains themes of nature’s underlying rule within us, ultimately revealing the futility of man’s worldly advancements as we cannot stray from our Mother. Overall, the songs on this album are extremely solid and really meld together to form a greater image, while maintaining a factor of diversity. Let’s dive into some of the record’s most prominent tracks.
Until the Earth is Empty
This song is undeniably an extremely outstanding intro track and deserves to be at the forefront of the album. Starting off slow, the guitars meander through a vast, seemingly infinite space before building their way up and settling on a not-so-unfamiliar Bison groove. The angst-ridden vocals break in relatively quickly, managing to deliver a sense of urgency that pushes the track forward. Although the vocals are a clearly prominent feature during the beginning of this song, the chugging and wavery guitar melodies truly keep the listener entertained. The beat eventually siphons down into a mid-paced pregnant groove that represents an abrasive interlude building energy to eventually break out into something more. The signature guitar solo erupts from this charging-up of sorts and takes the listener back into the song’s main riff. All in all, an excellent opening track that eludes to the outstanding quality of the release.
The signature second track thrasher from Bison lives up to songs such as “Dark Towers” that have previously taken throne within this song slot. The three-minute song never fails to deliver a crushing beat coupled with a frontal assault of guitars. Did I mention that the tone on this album is absolutely perfect? For the first time on the release the song reveals the wide-range of capabilities that are possible with a three-man vocal trio. The vocals range from softly-spoken, full-throttle angst, and some growling/screaming used sparingly. The track lets up here and there, following a tremendous breakdown and before the guitar solo, but ultimately crowns itself as the most fast-paced and urgent on the album. “Anti War” is an exceptional song that shows off the band’s ability to have fun and give the listener a break from the lengthy and well-composed monoliths sprouted throughout the record.
The track’s title itself is a merging of the Greek words “kenosis” and “opsia”, meaning “emptiness” and “seeing”, respectively. This title refers to a larger feeling of emptiness when one finds themselves within the presence of an unusually empty room and is often associated with the eerie feeling of deserted towns. This profound title choice directly demonstrates the band’s consistent ability to portray a larger message through the sole use of instruments. As mentioned earlier, although the vocals are a highlight on the record, they are less-prominent than usual while the guitars and drums provide the record’s primary locomotion. “Kenopsia” is a blatant representation of the band’s ability to move the listener with well-constructed instrumental tracks, which are often not attempted by other groups due to their daunting nature.
Bison’s You are not the Ocean you are the Patient is a well-produced record that follows-suit with the rest of the band’s consistent discography. Thunderous guitars, pacing drums, and a wide-range of vocals join together to successfully recreate that unique stoner/sludge/doom atmosphere that has been established with the group’s earlier releases. While consistency is a highlight, the band manages to show a developed maturity with the evolution of lyrical themes and experienced song compositions that are found throughout the record.