By Greg Pratt
Listening to Lovelessness, the third full-length from Vancouver's BISON B.C., is an overwhelming experience. The band—who have been compared pretty relentlessly to fellow big-hairy-beasted-named-band MASTODON in the past—made a lineup change, adding phenomenal sludge metal drummer Matt Wood (ex-GOATSBLOOD) to the fold and in doing so adding layers and layers of dirt, grime, and attitude to their sound. Seriously, this sounds like a different band, and a much better band if you happen to like dirty, grimy, sludge metal.
But while the results are incredibly enjoyable, getting there wasn't, at least for guitarist Dan And, who had to step back from the initial writing process for Lovelessness due to what his doctor referred to as an “occupational hazard” of playing in a metal band: harshing your liver's mellow.
“After some blood tests it was discovered that I'd developed acute alcoholic hepatitis,” says And. “Basically, after years of alcohol and substance abuse I had pushed my liver into the initial stages of cirrhosis and eventual failure. In order to ensure that I could remain in the band and continue to play and tour with Bison I had to take a step back to address my health and well-being. It was extremely difficult to distance myself from the early stages of writing the new record but the band gave me their full support.”
To this scribe's ears, the album sounds like the sound the band has been working towards all this time. I admit to And that I wasn't the hugest fan of the oldest material and because our personal histories go way back (oh, the stories we could tell), the interview doesn't end there and he agrees that this disc is indeed what the band has always been working towards.
“Yeah, absolutely,” he says. “We're all getting older and caring less and less about how people are going to view our sound. That's not to say that we ever really did care about how others viewed us but we've had plenty of time to become bitter and jaded. That's usually when bands produce their most confident music.”
And that confidence spills over into the band's attitude about what people may think of the album. When I suggest that fans may be alienated by the long songs, dirty production, and general difficulty involved in listening to this thing, And just shrugs it off, saying they don't worry about alienating people.
“If people truly like the music we make and can pick out our real influences then I think they'll always be on the same page with us,” he says. “I feel bad for the people who think we sound like that other hairy beast band because they are gonna get fuckin' bummed on us when we don't turn into Yes Crimson. We're still a metal band that grew up listening to all kinds of punk, metal, and rock. We aren't going to start singing pretty or turning down our distortion. When the day comes to switch musical styles or soften things up, it'll be as a different band.”
As mentioned before, the addition of Wood behind the skins seems to be what pushes this disc over the top in many ways. And is just as enthusiastic as a sludge fiend like myself is about this, referring to Wood as a “hell-send” and saying that while it was hard to say bye to previous drummer Brad MacKinnon, he had to leave to “get his life in order” and Wood was the perfect fit.
“Matt brought himself completely into Bison and his background in sludge was a perfect addition for us,” says And. “Aside from his fantastic drumming ability, he is also a songwriter and he takes the arrangements a lot more seriously then I thought he would. He fucking writes shit down when we're working on new songs. Writes shit down! None of us have ever done that before. He's even brought a new life into our old songs, adding weird little things here and there we never would've thought of doing. Brad's drum parts were fantastic, but Matt put his own twist on a lot of them to suit his style. As a musician it's exciting to hear those new twists in songs we wrote years ago.”