King Buffalo – Regenerator Review

Last year, in the midst of endless lockdowns, I got my lucky mittens on King Buffalo’s excellent The Burden of Restlessness. I had not heard another record that more perfectly encapsulated the experience of isolation resulting from the pandemic, nor have I since. The album was announced to be the start of a rapid-fire trilogy, the finale supposed to come out before the year was through. The vinyl crash elongated that schedule a tad, which caused part two, Acheron, to drop in the middle of list season and tumble between wall and ship. It had deserved better; not only is it a wondrous and otherworldly psychedelic trip, the whole album was recorded live in an actual cave for a unique sound not easily reproduced. So let me make it up to the band by at least addressing the closing chapter of the pandemic trilogy: Regenerator.

Whereas The Burden of Restlessness was en exercise in isolation and depression, Regenerator is the complete opposite. It’s a record that speaks of hope, of freedom, of transcendence. The bookends are a pair of 9 minute cosmic psychedelic jams, wrapping four tracks (and an interlude) of more in-your-face stoner rock with a proggy tilt. As such, it treads a neat balance between the directness of Burden and the extended jams of Acheron, and lets the band demonstrate the full range of their abilities. The first single, “Hours,” is an energetic rocker in the vein of older Queen of the Stone Age material that cleverly adds to the central riff with secondary riffs and space rock synths as the song unfolds. But of the central portion, it’s the back half that impresses the most. Perhaps it’s the lyrical theme, but the jaunty rhythm for “Mammoth” reminds me of Clutch’s “Elephant Riders,” spinning out into adventurous blues mixed with crushing riffs and a fierce guitar solo. Conversely, “Avalon” is a gorgeous track of hopeful longing, drifting back and forth between a dreamy atmosphere of reverent reverb on the one hand, and strident riffs with defiant multi-layered vocals on the other.

King Buffalo have proven that they are masters at writing intricate music that sounds simplistic or improvisational on the surface. How the central portion of tracks each develop in a vastly different direction is testament enough to this fact, but the extended jams underline this once more. I’m not even that big of a fan of jams, as they often seem to be more for the musicians’ sake than for the listener’s, but these tracks never sound aimless or repetitive. They develop from one or two riffs, spin out into excellent solos that remain anchored to the rhythmic structure of the track, return to the main theme to ground, develop the core to another level, and venture forth again into the unknown with renewed vigor. It is compositional precision born from songwriting freedom, and it never outstays its welcome to become repetitive or boring.

The many layers of these compositions are only allowed to shine as much as they do thanks to the production, which truly elevates both Regenerator specifically and King Buffalo as a whole. Both the previous albums in the trilogy sounded fantastic, with Acheron earning special commendation for the difficulty of its recording process, and Regenerator is no different. For the audiophiles amongst you, grab your best headphones. The bass is clean and rich, the guitars warm but crushing like a landslide when they need to be, and the many synths are placed meticulously where they need to go, whether it’s a spotlight turn or a distant atmospheric note.

If I have to point out any flaws (and I do), the somewhat limited range on Sean McVay’s vocals is strained a little on a few tracks, particularly “Firmament.” He was better suited to the ‘dead inside’ atmosphere of Burden in that sense. But if it were truly a noteworthy flaw, I wouldn’t staple it onto the closing paragraph. King Buffalo has once more earned its crown, with their entire trilogy of psychedelic proggy stoner a smashing success that few bands could hope to repeat. Regenerator marries the band’s two sides in an album bright with wonder and ripe with excellent songwriting, wonderful production and perfect execution. What a trip.

Rating: 4.0/5.0
DR: 11 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: NA: Self-released | EU: Stickman Records
Websites: | |
Releases Worldwide: September 2nd, 2022

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