Bison b.c. - Dark Ages (Metal Blade/Riot)

Bison b.c.'s third outing on Metal Blade isn't technically astounding but something about it makes you want to listen on


Dark Ages is an intriguing album. The bizarrely-titled Stressed Elephant opens proceedings with a slow, undulating groove complemented by a string section, and it bears similarities to the most recent release from Eluveitie, Everything Remains as it Never Was. A couple of minutes into this eight-minute opus, vocalist/guitarist James Farwell gets on with the job in hand, with second vocalist/guitarist Dan And getting stuck into some of the deeper vocals as the song progresses.

Fear Cave fluctuates wildly in tempo, ranging from an almost stationary chugging comparable to Gregorian chant, to archetypal thrash tempo beatings that would send the beers flying. Whilst we're on the subject of beers, Two-Day Booze presents a solid heavy metal number with some Bay Area thrash hooks but the drumming from Brad Mackinnon is a bit vague and doesn't work for me at all.

In Melody, This Is For You though, Bison b.c. have played a blinder. Wading through it at over eight-and-a-half minutes, the song builds up instrument by instrument, offering bassist Masa Anzai the chance to knock out some brutally low notes before the whole lot comes together around the four-minute mark and hammers into a raw, powerful metal outing. The other quality stand out song is album closer Wendigo Pt. 3 (Let Him Burn); thoroughly enjoyable, with a folk-tinged start crashing into a harder, thrashier number that's got a Machine Head feel.

There is nothing about this album which will make you stand back and soil your undergarments with joy, but nor will you smash your speakers with a golf club in anger. There is no doubting that Dark Ages is a metaller's metal album, designed for people who wear a lot of denim, have a lot of hair, drink a lot of beers and smoke a lot of cigarettes. You will bang your head as it plays out - but with a mere seven songs and at over 45 monutes in length, there are times when it feels like they've just forgotten to turn the recording off.

It's a worthy purchase but it might sit and gather dust after the first couple of plays.

Dark Ages is out now on Metal Blade/Riot.