Seaward by Mr BisonRelease date: October 16, 2020
Label: Ripple Music / Subsound Records
Mr Bison are an Italian three-piece that fit nicely onto the Ripple Music / Subsound Records labels, who are releasing their fourth album Seaward on October 16th. If you are not familiar with Mr Bison then they play a sort of classic pysch rock, nothing too outré and nothing too derivative of the heritage acts – the trio, confusingly all called Matteo, follow their own path with sincerity and passion.
Seaward finds the band entering into the world of concept albums, a fact that should neither deter or encourage the average listener and I shall not trouble you too much with the details, chiefly because having read the band’s press release twice I’m not really sure I can sum the concept up. You won’t be surprised to learn it has something to do with the sea, and mythology, and pearls. Maybe it got a little lost in translation or maybe I’m just not the type to get excited about this stuff. Anyway, what you’re probably asking is “does it rock? Well, it certainly starts that way.
The album opens with the title track and ghostly female vocals, eerie synths and what sounds like a gong, before a heavily flanged guitar riff rolls in like a pissed off elephant seal. It’s a really exciting start and then classic guitar lines kick in and the throaty, impassioned vocals of Matteo’s Barsacchi and Sciocchetto arrive. Mr Bison operate without a bass player and so some of the guitar work is heavily down tuned and fuzzed, but it’s used sparingly, perhaps too sparingly at times as the album has the tendency to operate at quite a frenzied pitch which would be offset by a bit more low-end groove. That opening tune is fine though, full of swagger and promise and it’s the song that convinced me to check this album out.
Second track ‘From the Abyss’ follows up on that promise and takes an unexpected starboard turn. After opening with what sounds like mandolins, crashing power chords and beautiful twin guitar leads, it eases into a lilting, psychedelic vocal passage then swells back into swashbuckling classic rock abandon. Imagine Iron Maiden writing a pirate metal epic on which Scouse psych masters The Coral take the verses. It never fails to startle, but in a good way, and is probably the best moment on the album.
The following two tracks operate more within the classic psych rock territory. ‘I’m the Storm’ is a widescreen, King Buffalo-style instrumental with gorgeous, awestruck, slide guitar work and ‘Oudeis’ finds the band channeling those other bass-less space cadets, The Doors, on the intro before it goes full wig-out. Fans of the contemporary masters of classic seventies style such as Graveyard will eat these tracks up.
I’m afraid from hereon in the album packs less of a punch, simply because it rehashes what we’ve heard before, both on this album, and from this particular genre. Closing number ‘The Curse’ briefly picks up the huge fuzzy riff of the opener, but that aside the last three numbers just cover the same ground, but just less divertingly. It’s certainly not poor, but you find your mind drifting off towards the end. It needs a bit more experimentation, a bit less frazzling high tension, and dare I say it, a dose of tongue-in-cheek fun? It’s still (sea) worthy of your time though!