Stoner and psychedelic, whether metal or rock, are all about introspection. Beyond the obsession with drugs, which was a fad that stuck when the genres inhabited the same spaces as other counter-culture movements in the 70’s, beyond the worship of nature, lies the exploration of the self. When executed poorly, when crassness and gimmick prevail, you’re left with a mess of symbols and objects (a storm, a lit roach, meaningless occult sigils) that mean little beyond a shared cultural reference. But when done well, these seemingly tired tropes and images still have a lot of power, since they channel something we all undergo: the movement and journey towards the self. King Buffalo, on their latest release Longing to Be the Mountain, show that they’re well aware of what makes their genre tick, both musically and conceptually.
From the album’s title and the band’s name, it’s already very clear that King Buffalo are steeped within the basic building blocks of their genre. With track titles like “Eye of the Storm” or “Cosmonaut”, King Buffalo declare their purpose: they’re here to make classic stoner rock and they’re not going to spend a minute apologizing for it. And by god, it works. The trick is, of course, that first and foremost, the music is excellent. “Morning Song”, the opening track, immediately sets the tone; the backing guitars are bright and dreamy, while the main lines are steeped in fuzz and take their time extolling the virtues of their composition. The vocals are another strong point, just familiar enough to draw us into the right mood but possessing of their own timbre which keeps us interested.
Further down the line, on “Quickening” and the title track, King Buffalo tap a more melancholic and pensive version of this sound. Indeed, the entire album runs between these two vibes, namely a brighter, morning influenced, hope-filled perspective on nature and a grimmer, more awe-inspired gaze on the titans of climate and geography. The music changes accordingly; the title track has way more solos and massive guitar sections, creeping close to the territory of bands like Ancestors or The Samsara Blues Experiment at times with their heavy, thundering riffs and chords. But whenever this energy would burst into a full-blown breakdown, King Buffalo tap the brakes a bit and, resplendent in deep bass lines and a return to the more echoing guitar lines, deny the track’s it’s full flowering.
Which might be a frustrating fact for some; sometimes, you wish for King Buffalo to take a true deep dive into the heavier parts of their sound. The contrast with the more melodic segments could have been full of catharsis and vibe. But King Buffalo aren’t about that, man. They’re here to gaze in awe into the depths of chilled out distortion and help us turn the eye inwards. And that they do and do well. If you’re looking for an album that will absolutely grab you by the heart and send you on a wild ride, perhaps other pastures have what you need. But if you’d like to partake in your favorite sin or perhaps just put up your legs and meditate on the awesomeness of nature (and it is awesome, my friends) then Longing to Be the Mountain has what you’re after. And, be honest: who among us does not long to be the mountain?
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Longing to Be the Mountain sees release on October 12th. It’s self-released in the US and signed to the excellent Stickman Records in Europe. Head on over to the Bandcamp link above to pre-order. Stay groovy, my dudes.