REVIEW: We Hunt Buffalo – Head Smashed In

Release date: October 26, 2018

We Hunt Buffalo cranks it to 11 on Head Smashed In, living up to the record’s name with a heavy, fuzzy onslaught. Guitarist Ryan Forsythe describes it as the band’s “heaviest album to date,” and he’s not wrong.

Click here to read my interview with We Hunt Buffalo’s Ryan.

While Ryan describes this record as a “new direction,” it is still recognisably We Hunt Buffalo. The band’s signature dirty stoner rock is still in evidence, it just has an extra helping of oomph on this outing. That increased heaviness is probably most in evidence on ‘Angler Must Die,’ the album’s second track and one of 3 released in the build-up to Head Smashed In‘s release.

Once again recorded with Jesse Gander at Rain City Recorders, Head Smashed In is extremely crisp (if that’s not too much of a contradiction for a classic Fuzzorama Records release). You can really hear and revel in each individual instrument — the sometimes-melodic-sometimes-guttural vocals or bone-shaking riffs of Ryan, the groovily intense bass of Cliff Thiessen (new for this album), and the thunderous-yet-precise drums of Brandon Carter.

While not a full-on concept album like 2015’s Living Ghosts, Head Smashed In deals with similar apocalyptic themes — which are just as relevant now as they were 3 years ago, according to Ryan, the band’s lyricist.

Things aren’t really much better than 2015. If anything, they’re worse off with the current President of the United States and all the environmental disasters that are going on. It’s just like, if we can do our part to spread that message a little more, then I’m happy to do it.” — Ryan (click here to read more)

One thing that definitely isn’t worse off is rock music, with the release of this album. The emphasis on heaviness and the brutality of Head Smashed In‘s title belie the album’s intricacy. I can totally understand why We Hunt Buffalo drummer Brandon prefers to categorise the band as prog rather than stoner rock. There are a lot of subtle and well-worked elements at play here, and it’s a testament to the band’s musicianship that these feed naturally into the record’s blunt-instrument vibe without feeling overdone.

More than anything, this album shows that We Hunt Buffalo isn’t just re-hashing its sound on successive albums but is actually progressing. As foot-stompingly good as Head Smashed In already is, I look forward to a bright future from this Fraser Valley trio.

Head Smashed In by We Hunt Buffalo is out now on New Damage / Fuzzorama Records. Get your digital copy from Bandcamp or order the CD or vinyl from New Damage’s store (in Canada) or Fuzzorama’s store (elsewhere).

See We Hunt Buffalo live at SBC on November 3 for a record release party with Killer Deal, If We Are Machines and Another Man’s Gold.