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Album Review: Bison – You Are Not the Ocean You Are the Patient

There have been a few changes in the Bison camp in the five years since their last full-length, Lovelessness. For starters, they’ve dropped the B.C. from their name. They’ve also parted company with Metal Blade Records and replaced long-time bass player Masa Anzai with ex-3 Inches of Blood otheguitarist Shane Clark. More importantly, the band seems to have expanded their sonic palate on their latest offering, You Are Not the Ocean You Are the Patient, making this record easily the high-water mark of their discography.

I’ll be honest here – I’ve never really been all that into Bison. I’ve always found their particular brand of stoner/sludge metal to be all but indistinguishable from the Back Tusks and Zoroasters of the metal world, and I’ve never much been into those sorts of bands, either. There’s been a definite evolution in Bison’s sound, though, on this new record. The production is a bit drier than one would usually expect from this style of music, which in and of itself gives the record a very different feel. There’s more to it than that, though. According to the PR notes that accompanied the promo, guitarist/vocalist James Farwell was listening to a lot of old blues records when writing for the album, resulting in music that’s still heavy, but in untraditional ways. There’s also an expansiveness to the arrangements, especially on the longer tracks like “Tantrum” and “The Water Becomes Fire,” that gives the music an engagingly searching quality. The record still has the occasional banger, like the seething hardcore of “Anti War,” but there’s more a balance between burly riffs and other, less obvious influences.

Not to sound overly dramatic, but a decade into their careers, Bison seems to have found themselves with You Are Not the Ocean You Are the Patient. Fans of stoner metal, sludge, or eve post-metal would do well to check it out.

You Are Not the Ocean You Are the Patient will be available on July 7 via Pelagic Records.

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