The Vancouver metal band Bison B.C.'s fourth album is a muscular and expansive piece of stoner metal that seeks to challenge the laid-back, sluggish nature of that term.
Let's get this out of the way: Lovelessness is in no way a tribute to My Bloody Valentine's Loveless. In some ways the cover art of the Vancouver metal group Bison B.C.'s fourth album does bring to mind the deep coloring and dreamy haziness of Loveless, but even that's a stretch: Unlike MBV's hazy pinks, these raw, bloody reds signal an obvious metal direction. Instead, Lovelessness is a muscular and expansive piece of stoner metal that seeks to challenge the laid-back, sluggish nature of the term. Like High on Fire, with whom Bison B.C. toured in 2010, and who have also fought to shake from the shackles of being dubbed "stoner metal," they're best seen as an exceptional metal group, no additional tags required.
Glancing at some of the tracks' extended running times, one might assume Bison B.C. are a vintage 70s throwback intent on jamming endlessly. But the only song that drifts into the blacklight badlands is "Blood Music", the longest and shaggiest of the tracks at just under 11 minutes: It begins with a Kyuss-style doom swing, then heads into more Hawkwindian territory. (How could those spacy screeches not be sampled from Space Ritual?) "Last and First Things" opens with a current of rolling power electronics that's buried enough to serve as an easy entry into the tribal drums that give way to tried-and-true high E leads, rather than a sonic overload. It sounds like a bad nightmare, but the difference is you know there's an end. If Lovelessness does have any real flaw, it's that those hisses aren't used enough.
Maybe, though, Bison B.C. know when enough is enough. There's plenty of evidence to suggest Lovelessness is built on solid songcraft and pummeling metal, not waste. Bassist Masa Anzai and current drummer Matt Wood, who replaced Brad MacKinnon, both served time in the underrated, short-lived sludge/grind hybrid group Goatsblood. As such, they, and the rest of Bison B.C., are versed in the power of the riff. "Clozapine Dream", clocking in at 3:16, is Lovelessness' representative track, in spite or because of the fact that it's the leanest. With its velocity, guitarist/vocalist James Farwell goes back to his roots in thrashers S.T.R.E.E.T.S., and it also helps that Wood is a former member of metal revivalists 3 Inches of Blood. That song, and "An Old Friend", are reminiscent of Mastodon before they got bigger recording budgets-- ambitious, but mindful of the conventions that work in metal.
Speaking of Mastodon, remember when metal was getting "hip" again, which was a bunch of bands trying to do what the Sword did? Behold, tired attempts of pretending Sabbath ended with Ozzy and lead guitar ended with the death of Phil Lynott. That wasn't pleasant, but with Lovelessness, Bison B.C. prove that rudimentary doesn't mean uninteresting or trendy. These songs just bring out the tongue lashes. Which is the point of this kind of metal.
Andy O'Connor, November 5, 2012, pitchfork