Review Summary: R.I.P. Milo
Bison B.C. have been active for around 7 years, formed from pieces of S.T.R.E.E.T.S, Goatsblood, and 3 Inches of Blood. Since the bands formation, guitar/vocals have been covered by James Farwell and Dan And, bass/noise by Masa Anzai, and on Lovelessness Matt Wood takes over drums in place of Brad MacKinnon. All the players on this album have had serious experience on tour and in the studio, and it definitely shows in the finished product that is Lovelessness.
This is a very mature record. By that I mean it is very dark, and very serious, which is something not seen on previous releases. While the music of Quiet Earth and Dark Ages wasn't exactly lighthearted, you won't find anything as tormented as the mood in tracks like "An Old Friend" or "Finally Asleep". This lamenting stems from the (then) recent loss of James Farwell's dog Milo, and it obviously affected Bison B.C. as a whole, turning this album into not just the last album in their contract with Metal Blade, but a somber tribute to a dear friend. All those factors are what make this work unique in the band's discography. Bison are still employing frequent tempo shifts, emphasis on riffs, and a massive low end, but the atmosphere created with this record is stunning, Lovelessness practically oozes with the memory of Milo.
While the tone of this album stands out in a big way, the band is still coming up with intricate and well developed riffs, and as guitar harmonies are still present, Bison have put a greater focus on melody within the guitar parts. These two elements come together to produce grand, brooding, and expansive instrumental passages, showcased well in tracks such as "Last and First Things" and "Blood Music". Bison have also opted to land in a more mid-paced tempo range than on former albums, allowing songs to slowly burn over time, rather than explode in a flash of hell-fire. But there are still moments where the listener is forced into proper head-banging, about 4 minutes into "Last and First Things", and the band's shortest song to date "Clozapine Dream" being great examples. The amazing thing is that Bison B.C. have kept with a relatively simple formula since their formation, and are able to keep using that formula without getting stale. Their sound was fresh with the first full-length, they perfected their blend of stoner, doom, hardcore, and (dare I say?) prog with the second, and supplemented the sound with superb atmosphere and emotion with the third.
Which brings me to my last point. A lot of elements have been dropped from Dark Ages in the making of Lovelessness. The band is still using the technique of using "noise" (basically musical feedback) to create depth, but have dropped entirely the acoustic guitar, brass winds, and orchestral strings. Those elements are what elevated songs like "Stressed Elephant" and parts 1 and 3 of the "Wendigo" series to truly epic proportions. In addition, Dan And's vocals have also been completely omitted from Lovelessness from what I can tell (although he IS credited in the liner notes, perhaps the "*** OFF!" at the end of "Last and First Things"). His tornado-like bellow gave even more dimension to Bison's sound (especially on Dark Ages), and while Farwell has a very distinctive voice of his own, the employment of two prominent vocalists was missed on this album.
All in all, this is another excellent release by a band who I believe to be one of heavy metal's most under appreciated artists. If and when they release more music, I will happily be searching out whatever it is, wherever I can find it.