Another record from Metal Blade’s Canadian installation and the third record from Canadian 70s-metal-meets-hardcore band Bison BC. This record took me totally by surprise, as I’d never heard of this band before and wasn’t really sure of what to expect. Honestly, all I had to go with was the look of the record and it looked very 70s. That fact alone hasn’t been very reassuring, while there are some bands out there trying to push the sound a bit, it just feels like another nostalgia movement that isn’t going anywhere to me so I tend to be pretty skeptical of such records.
Dark Ages, however, is maybe that white buffalo of the herd, then. While maintaining the fundamental foundations that you hear from bands like High on Fire or Barn Burner, that is, the thick low end and doomy feel, Bison BC pushes the envelope with a much more hardcore oriented vocal approach. The sound is also characterized by some old school sounding death metal riffs and some deceivingly proggy moments which I could have done with even more of actually. While the indie scene is getting their 70s prog on, the metal scene seems to be more interested in emulating the simplicity of Motorhead and Black Sabbath and less with some of the more progressive roots of the scene, something that is slightly remedied here.
I might be wrong, but there is definitely the feel that these guys were also a bunch of former crust punks or something. The record is produced much more like an old hardcore or metal album than most of the modern stuff that’s coming out and it’s a sound that I really like. The tones are thick and meaty, the drums are nothing but beef and the guitar tone is like smooth like butter while still being totally fat. This is one of the best features of the album, as you sort of zone in and out of their riffs, it really stands out how fucking heavy old school production really sounds when you compare it to a lot of the modern production tricks and techniques that we’re hearing these days. All-in-all, the earthy tone from this Canadian foursome is a refreshing change of pace and Dark Ages has all the heavy riffs that a modern metal head could possibly want. For me, the highlights were definitely “Stressed Elephant”, which has a cool horn section at the beginning, some acoustic work at the end and is just generally totally epic, and the track “Die of Devotion” which is almost thrash, except that the chord and melodic choices are way more interesting. But “Wendigo Pt. 3” which seals the record up is definitely the finest moment and it culminates in all that prog that’s missing from the more straight hardcore and metal stuff.
Honestly, the biggest complaint that I have about this record is probably that it’s not proggy enough. They sound like they want to prog it up, but then they always break it back down to the more simplistic hardcore and crusty stylings. While it definitely works and is definitely enjoyable, it left me frustrated waiting for Rush or Kansas to burst through all the “raaaah!” that was going on here. Fans of the neo-70s stuff, crusty punk and hardcore should definitely check this out. Though, I think most people should at least give these guys a listen, because Dark Ages is interesting, thick and heavy as the nearly extinct land mammal from which they take their name.