Published Apr 13, 2010As with any band capable of delivering a solid, long-term output, Vancouver, BC-based thrash/doom metal quartet Bison B.C. showed instant promise with their inaugural album, 2007's Earthbound. Successfully surpassing it though, 2008 sophomore effort and Metal Blade debut Quiet Earth revealed deeper, more complex songs. Still, despite impressively strong foundations, it was clear that they hadn't yet hit their stride or entirely established their power and virulence. With third full-length Dark Ages, however, allusions are gone, obliterated by the band's refined dexterity in both structural fortitude and aggressive conveyance. While its predecessors promised much, but delivered no more or less than expected, from its apocalyptic fury, exploratory songs that revel in aural agitation and beastly, frenetic thunder, Bison B.C. have discovered their true monolithic integrity on Dark Ages. Modestly progressive, in the vein of Neurosis, while never straying from the primal essence of grit-mongers such as High On Fire, the album's volatile connection of guttural intent with cerebral inventiveness is akin to Egon Spengler's description of crossing the streams: "all life as you know it stopping instantaneously and every molecule in your body exploding at the speed of light." Put some hammering kick drum to it and you've got the epic potency of Dark Ages.
Structurally, this is one of your most accomplished efforts.
Guitarist/vocalist James Farwell: Thanks. I think it's because of the fact that we exorcised this monster from ourselves after touring for so long. You take the stress, the joy, mash it all up and it all just comes out of you as this mental mess. That's when arrangement comes into play. You take what you've got and mould it into a more flowing creature.
When you say that song titles like "Stressed Elephant" and "Two-Day Booze" have new meaning.
Exactly. Absolutely and now I'm starting to understand the songs. When it's happening, you don't know where it's coming from. After though, you get a better vibe of that. I'm getting a better idea of what the songs are about now.
That really happens? You write and need to reflect about where it came from afterwards to comprehend it?
Oh god yeah, especially on this album. A lot of the songs came from pretty dark places, in retrospect. That's why I'm surprised at how depressing the album is to me. It's depressing and uncomfortable when I reflect on it.
It's cathartic then?
Hoo yeah. Man, if I didn't have this outlet, I'd be in a lot of fuckin' trouble.
Not that the first two albums were lacking, but this one has something the others didn't entirely grasp. You guys finally have your shit together.
It's about time we do; we tend to agree. You hit a certain stride, get on a good roll and I think we did that with this one. It's just the next one that we have to worry about now.
Once this one's done, you already worry about how to tackle the next album?
Yeah, 'cause this one was such a piece of cake [laughs]. We'll spend too much time on the next one. It'll be our "November Rain" or something.
How did you approach Dark Ages? What was going through your mind when writing and how did it turn out in comparison to your intentions?
I think that the main difference [is how] we really took the arrangement of the tunes into consideration. We were intent on not just banging out more Neanderthal riffs. We wanted 'em to sound good, but when you're writing an eight- or ten-minute-long song, it's not just about good riffs. It's how it's put together and we concentrated more on that aspect this time.
How long did you spend on it then?
It was written in a fairly short period of time. All told, we had about three months to do some solid writing last year.
Can that intense amount of time, that brevity, push you to write stuff you never thought you would?
That's exactly how it went. We came off a tour and we can't all just sit there. We have to go back to work, we have our girlfriends and our dogs ― shit we need to take care of. When you're seriously going all day long at work, visiting friends and living life, you get to the rehearsal space and you just work. There wasn't a moment when I wasn't thinking about the songs, riffs, arrangements, lyrics and ideas. It's an intense process, especially when you're trying to cram it into a shorter period of time, but it worked out.
Do you think you'll be picking at the wound when you play these songs live if you're only now understanding their context?
I think that once you digest things, the live experience is the pinnacle of the work that you've done. Performing it live, people react. You take this negative thing that you've encapsulated into this music and you put it into the amazing atmosphere of a live show where you get to expel it. That's good for you: how you come to terms with and get over what you're writing about. Maybe that's why so many musicians tend to gravitate towards darker themes and depressing vibes with the world. They need to or it'll eat them up. (Metal Blade)