Vancouver is not exactly well known for being a fertile breeding ground for successful metal bands. Aside from Black Mountain, Strapping Young Lad and Three Inches of Blood, there haven’t been any other credible heavy groups from this city to gain any significant recognition outside of Canada.
Bison B.C. definitely deserves to be added to this exclusive club. Combining thrash, stoner, death and most other metal subgenres you could care to mention, they’re vital and contemporary while retaining the spirit of their musical heritage. In creative terms, they are only one or two steps behind Mastodon and High On Fire, arguably the leading lights in modern-day metal.
Opening the night’s proceedings was the only band from out of town, Portland’s Purple Rhinestone Eagle. Whilst some of their song writing is a little unrefined, they still crank out some seriously cool Sabbath-inspired riffage. Their flair for this was particularly evident on set highlight, “Burn It Down,” complete with some super sexy bass-wah action. It’s not often that the opening band on a bill gets calls for an encore either.
Things took a decidedly heavier turn when Weapon took the stage. The modicum of melody in their songs was expressed through some impressively nimble bass playing. This brought some extra depth to their otherwise visceral sound, like a more stoner rock take on Neurosis. Any band that introduces a song as being “…about doing mushrooms in the woods” is obviously going to be good.
Haggatha picked up where Weapon left off, pushing the heaviness levels to even further extremes. Their bleak and misanthropic noise was hard to stomach, especially when combined with their horrific strangled vocal style, reminiscent of the seminal Burning Witch. Uneasy-listening indeed.
From blistering opener “Two-day Booze” the sheer ferocity of Bison B.C. threatened to cause the show to implode. The second song, “Slow Hand of Death,” was frustratingly hampered by some over-excited moshers down front who got caught up in both the moment and in vocalist/guitarist James Farwell’s mic stand, prompting fellow vocalist/guitarist Dan And to diplomatically plead for “peace in the mosh” in order to calm the situation.
Only three releases into their career, the band are already spoilt for choice when it comes to putting together their set list. While most of the songs they played were taken from their last album, Dark Ages, (including the awe-inspiring “Stressed Elephant” and “Fear Cave”) we were also treated to a savage “Dark Skies Above” from their debut. Bison B.C.’s music is so densely complex that even if you’re familiar with their work, it was hard to follow what was going on. As they piled through riff after riff, some of the subtleties were regrettably lost in the maelstrom. It’s best to pay attention when seeing them live, because if you don’t keep up, you’ll get crushed in the stampede.