Hamtramck, Michigan (population 22,000) might be just a tad off the beaten rock ‘n’ roll track, but stoner/heavy rock quartet Bison Machine don’t seem the types to let that bother them. Mitch Ryder (of the Detroit Wheels fame) is perhaps the most-well known musician to come from the area, but with their full-length debut Hoarfrost, Bison Machine are marking their territory in no uncertain fashion.
Fans of Sabbath, Thin Lizzy and early Queens of the Stone Age will find lots to like here; the riffs are bruising, the vocals big and the rhythm section relentless. Opener ‘Cosmic Ark’ wastes no time getting among the Iommi-esque riffs in crushing hard-rock fashion, as singer Tom Stec flaunts an impressive range as he attacks the mic. On ‘Old Moon’, the band take more of a psych approach, before punctuating the haze with riffs that could have been lifted from Zeppelin IV, while the space-y ‘Gamekeeper’s Thumb’ wanders and drones. Elsewhere, ‘Speed of Darkness’ continues the brutal riffage and closer ‘Giant’s Coffin’ finishes the album just as it began.
Bison Machine wear their influences on their sleeves, but it’s their ability to keep things varied and introduce a range of elements from the best parts of classic rock that makes them an exciting band. Besides that, these songs sound like they would shake the walls and raise the roof in a live setting.
The recent loss of talented founding guitarist John deVries, who has qualified to work as an orthopaedic surgeon, might throw a spanner in the works of the band’s future, but for now, set the dial to 1972 and crank up the volume on Hoarfrost. Bison Machine mean business.