Bison Machine - Hoarfrost (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

Bison Machine

Hoarfrost (2015)

Self released

I seem to have fallen down into a stoner-metal rabbit hole, and I must say, I’ve been enjoying it. My most recent discovery is Detroit’s Bison Machine. I decided to check them out when I saw they were doing a short Midwestern tour with Against The Grain, another favorite of mine from Motown. After a pair of long EPs in 2013 and 2014, Hoarfrost is Bison Machine’s first full length. With these type of bands, it can be hard to determine where EPs end and LPs start. The songs can be really long, and a four track EP might run a half hour. Hoarfrost is six songs that stretch out to nearly 37 minutes.

The information available about Bison Machine is pretty cryptic, and I’m not even sure how many people are in the band. Musically, it’s driving hard rock that would almost certainly appeal to fans of bands like Fu Manchu and The Sword. It’s an idealized version of the fuzzed-out sounds of the 70’s. The guitar tones of the 70’s were rarely as chunky and overdriven as they are here. “Cosmic Ark” is the concise and catchy four minute opener. The vocals can get into a high register that remind me a bit of a young Jack Bruce. (He was from a really great band called Cream. Ask your dad.) “Viking Hand” is the other four minute song and it manages to maintain a constant intensity. It’s full of furious riffing and scorching solos. “Speed of Darkness” is nearly six minutes long and has a heavy, sped-up Black Sabbath vibe.

The other three songs are much more challenging. Six and a half minute “Old Moon” starts out heavy, then alternates between quieter sections and intense riffing. Seven plus minute “Gamekeeper’s Thumb” begins with a mellow bass line and continues to build over its entire length. “Giant’s Coffin” takes the award for longest track at nearly nine minutes. It sometimes conjures up memories of Led Zeppelin’s more trippy, psychedelic stuff. Bison Machine’s lyrics have a tendency to get a little too far into Dungeons and Dragons/JRR Tolkien territory for my taste, but I know there’s a lot of people into that kind of thing. Overall, Hoarfrost is a really solid record, and I look forward to hearing these songs live.