The bluesy psych-rock trio shows off its souped-up import axes, pricier amps, and carefully planned pedal playgrounds.
Hailing from the land of ice and snow, aka Rochester, New York, guitarist Sean McVay, bassist Dan Reynolds, and drummer Scott Donaldson dropped their mammoth-sounding debut, Orion, in 2016. The opening title track best exudes King Buffalo’s MO: darker Pink Floyd “Echoes” vibes with the eventual punishment of tectonic-shifting power of fellow power trio Sleep. KB may never go full doom, often subbing in hazier psychedelic strokes for monotonous monotone riffs, but they can still rumble with heaviest bands. “Goliath Pt. 1” and “Goliath Pt. 2” strongly showcase their Jekyll-and-Hyde stoner-rock tendencies that teeter between Floyd’s Live at Pompei and Black Sabbath’s Master of Reality.
With leftover Orion material, the band released an EP Repeater in early 2018. The 3-song collection would be a perfect soundtrack to a time-lapsed, mountain-climbing video. The expansive 13-minute opener starts calmly like any ascent, but as it continues, things begin to speed up, intensify, grow darker, before a crescendoing crash of celebration on the successful summit.
Later in 2018, the trio released their sophomore album, Longing to be the Mountain. The pace on LTBTM is much like the smooth cadence and perpetual hypnotic groove of hip-hop star NAS—it’s deliberate, powerful, and always bobbing forward. Space is much more prevalent than on Orion. Bookend bloomers “Morning Song” and “Eye of the Storm” exude the group’s blossoming confidence (and patience) providing air for suspense, tension, and timely, forceful apexes. With the added breathing room, the explosive parts build and powerfully bust through like a blues-tinged, psychedelic, kraut-rock-powered tsunami best felt in the doubled solos of “Quickening” and the thunder-cracking climax of the title track. (Full disclosure: I picked Longing to be the Mountain as one of my favorite albums of 2018. And time has only further solidified this vote.)
Before their headlining show at Nashville’s High Watt, guitarist/singer Sean McVay and his bass counterpart Dan Reynolds explain and demo how a couple of cheap, afterthought instruments paired with scaled-down boards create breakneck dynamics from Ms. Priss to monstrous.