Review: Bison – You Are Not The Ocean You Are The Patient


The ability to be sincere without totally rejecting the ironic status-quo is less than easy to attain. While there is some appeal to a world that has accepted that nothing holds meaning, namely that we could all finally stop being so damn serious all the time, the fear that we have overcompensated is a real issue in my mind. On the side of the too-sincere we have people who can’t take a joke and over analyze every pop culture phenomenon until they are just not fun anymore (“Rocket Raccoon is a rebellion against the so-called post-racial politics of the Obama era”), and on the other, we have people who make unfunny statements that they claim are jokes, then find amusement when others take offence to their ignorance.

So how do we straddle that line and become a thoughtful, yet still playful society? Bison.

In music, the two-sidedness is a bit different. Much of metal is tongue-in-cheek, whether it be speaking about gore, satan, or steel, there’s some amount of prerequisite knowledge to really “get it” without being offended or thinking it’s obnoxiously cheesy. I see it as a sort of rebellion against the over-sincerity (so much so that it’s often empty) of most radio-friendly love songs. Of course, I am not slandering the good name of these metal styles, but sometimes I am looking for something a little more honest and grounded. There are tons of bands doing “serious” sociological thematic albums, but they often fall short and land squarely in the too-sincere/cheesy category. The difference with You Are Not The Ocean You Are The Patient is that it’s actually good.

The album notes contain two fantastically written verses that lay out the premise (and explain the abstract album title). You can read that on any of the Youtube video info sections. It’s a rejection of agency, of people thinking they have control when really the forces aiding or acting against them are much greater and often unconquerable. It sounds pretty pessimistic on the surface, but the music itself might make you think otherwise. It’s angry, sure, but there’s a sort of optimism past the brutal acknowledgment of our humanity.

Evolving in both name and sound (they were previously Bison B.C.), their more traditional heavy doom sound is now a little more progressive and far catchier. While they have always been good riff writers, they have now become excellent songwriters. Now on The Ocean’s label, I think they have coincidentally adopted a little bit of that band’s ability to progress a song into this new record. The riff that starts it is rarely the one that finishes it. It’s also nowhere near just straightforward doom at this point. There’s some hardcore influence, maybe a little post-something, and sludge, but it’s also very focused. They had a vision and they executed it.

Quick opinion on sounds (just listen to it, you dummy): The bass is just thick and fugly in the best way. Vocals have really taken it up a notch since Lovelessness, I really like the new range (still relatively small, but there’s nuance). Really love the clean guitar work on some of the slower sections, adds some heavy emotion to the whole thing so it’s not just a desolate riff-city. Solos are a nice touch. I don’t know how to talk about drumming, but it’s good and varied.

And but so how is Bison the answer to my question? They clearly decided that they no longer cared about their image as a canonical doom band. They were open to influence, judged their potentials, and created something worth listening to. It’s trying to speak to our reality while abstaining from including lame 5-minute expositions in the middle of each song. There’s no reason to be so steadfast in any one thing, but also don’t be so flippant that no one knows your what you stand for since you’re “just joking” all the time. Sincerity and Irony in a blender.

4 Out ov 5 Flaming Toilets ov Hell

You Are Not The Ocean You Are The Patient is out Friday via Pelagic Records (the US release date is July 7). Purchase here.

Full Album stream here via Monolith. Along with the two above songs be sure to check out “Kenopsia” (14:30) which has a great catchy riff and closer “Water Becomes Fire” is a monumental achievement (31:06).

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