Bison B.C.

Dark Ages

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The third album (and second for Metal Blade) by Canadian sludge-metal quartet Bison B.C. is slightly less Mastodon-esque than 2008's Quiet Earth, but it's still possible to make comparisons to the Atlanta-based band. The fact that they're both named for giant furry animals (and ancient ones, too, it would seem, despite the fact that the "B.C." in Bison's name stands for British Columbia) doesn't help create space between them, so Bison's best option, one they exercise here, is to avoid the prog rock excesses that make Mastodon's work either brilliant or infuriating, depending on the individual listener's tastes. The songs on Dark Ages are quite heavy and occasionally fairly long -- the disc opens with the eight-minute "Stressed Elephant," the longest track on offer and one driven by drummer Brad MacKinnon's head-down pounding. Throughout the album, he keeps it pretty straightforward and simple, supporting guitarists/co-lead vocalists James Gnarwell and Dan And, and bassist Masa Anzai as they rip loose, downtuned, sludgy riffs. There are some interesting sonic touches here and there -- a dash of horn (or synth) and some acoustic guitar on "Stressed Elephant," a manly choir on "Fear Cave," a lengthy acoustic intro to album closer "Wendigo, Pt. 3 (Let Him Burn)" -- but overall the sound is big, loud, and heavy. "Die of Devotion" and "Take the Next Exit" -- tracks from the album's second half -- are particularly crushing, speeding up the tempos and keeping the riffs minimalist and moshpit-worthy. Dark Ages is the next step after Quiet Earth, but it's not such a huge leap that it'll alienate anyone, and it's also a fine entry point to their catalog.

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