October 20th, 2011. The day Bison BC returned to Kingston, ON. It was almost 3 years ago when they last (and only?) played here. I remember the day clearly. It was Saturday Nov. 8, 2008. I was supposed to work that night but luckily I took the night off. Righteous. Trouble is, it was my 30th birthday and my wife planned a party for me. FUCK!! But the party's at AKA! With Bison!! (shakes fists at sky) This was shortly after Quiet Earth was released. That album (which made my Top 5 that year) greatly increased their recognition in the underground metal scene. When Dark Ages was released in 2010 it pushed Bison to an even higher level (#2) across the board and I figured my chances of seeing them perform live were done. Traveling to Toronto or Montreal isn't in the cards for me much anymore. (One show since the inaugural SOTU tour) But, BUT! The metal gods smiled on me. They brought Bison back to Kingston.
As always, I like to say a little something about the opening bands. Unfortunately, my capacity for coherent thought was hampered by the joint I smoked before I went in to the show. I'll do the best I can.
Severence led off the night. They also led off the last show I was at but I missed them. I was too busy trying not to totally freak out. (Advice: Kingdom of Noise does not recommend the use of high powered energy drinks and marijuana simultaneously) They weren't that bad really but I think my tolerance level was abnormally high. (he he, I said high) No, it definitely was. Whatever the case, I couldn't help but think they sounded like a mashup of say, Godsmack, Protest The Hero and The Black Dahlia Murder. In so much as a varied vocal style (I can't say range) and an apparent inability to play the same riff more than once in a row. At times it bordered on crabcore. One guitarist, whom I dubbed Stiffler due to both his appearance and personality, kept doing that fucking pigeon neck thing. I hate that. BANG IT!! He was probably doing that so his cockeyed backwards ballcap didn't fall off. FUCK! I guess my tolerance wasn't that high after all. In the most spot on appropriate moment of the day, the band announced they had one more song, then, while they were sippin' beers/adjusting hats/shouting Go Leafs Go!, the house music came on and they didn't get to play their last song. Severence. I almost laughed out loud but I feared if I started, I'd never be able to stop.
I wanted to write more about the next band, Ponderous Chain, than Severence but I think my high peaked during their set and I got lost in it. On the progressive side of death metal. Proficient without being overly technical. The vocals were that kind where he kind of just screams somewhat randomly. They don't follow the flow of the music. That's not uncommon these days and at least he didn't try and mix in too many clean vocals. Some, but not too many. They did have some "mosh parts" but they had just as many passages where they chilled out a bit and let the guitars wander. My buzz liked those parts. Lead Guitar was wearing an Opeth shirt which surprised me not at all. I could hear some influence. (Not that mess Heritage though) I wouldn't be surprised by an affinity for Meshuggah either. I would be interested to hear their stuff while sober. I was interested enough to extricate myself from the chair to get a better look so that's a positive for them. At one point during their set, I came up with a description of their sound that blew my mind. I didn't think I was capable of stringing together such a profound series of words. Dreams are made of that description. If there was a Pulitzer for phrases such as it was, I would have won. But, I totally forgot.
Toronto duo I, Emperor were in the direct support slot. While they weren't the best openers of the night, they did have to travel so I guess that's why they get it. I was having a very difficult trying to categorize this band. I still am really. Art-metal speed punk? indie-core? I don't know. They were well practiced and very passionate. They had PA issues a couple songs in, and the show was already running 30-40 min behind. I had started to come down and the loss of momentum bummed me out. I lost focus and just started people watching. Us metalheads are a weird lot.
Vancouver's Bison BC have become one of my favourite bands. Especially Canadian band. As intense and their recorded work is, I have heard their live performance notches that up a ton. Their performance at The Mansion in Kingston did nothing to change that impression. As with some of the great bands that I have seen, I can tell they are a touring band by the feel of the show. This is their arena. Not the studio. They didn't stick to note for note rehashings of the songs as heard on the CD. They could jam out passages, pulling the audience along, holding us above their heads waiting, waiting, and then slamming us against the rocks with fury. That's just the way they are. If Bison wants to just bowl you over they will. If they want to toy with you a bit first with beautiful instrumental passages before the destruction is wrought, they will do that too. It all makes for some pretty interesting headbanging. I'm sure some people were having fun at my expense as threw my body around in time with the onslaught. Said onslaught was quite varied as far as material goes. I'm a little rusty on Earthbound, and less so on Quiet Earth but I think they hit all three albums. My memory is horrible for song titles but I did remember a few. They played what might be my favourite Bison tune, "These Are My Dress Clothes" along with, I believe, "Slow Hand of Death". Dark Ages songs included "Melody, This Is For You" and "Stressed Elephant" as well as set closer "Fear Cave". The rest of the songs have been lost to broken synapses. It makes no difference to me what they played. It's all killer. Part of the problem might have been due to my positioning at the stage. I couldn't hear Dan's vocals at all. I might have been able to at the back but I was having way too much fun self-inducing whiplash in range of being brained by James' guitar. It was unfortunate there wasn't a better turn out for the show. However, I have resigned myself to the fact that Kingston as a city doesn't hold bands such as Bison BC in as high regard as I do. Hopefully it doesn't deter these East Van road dogs from making their way back to the Limestone City. In less than three years would be nice too. Then again, I had no idea what was going on behind me. Nor did I care. I was RAGIN'!!