Lord Buffalo Embrace Oblivion on Their Debut Full Length

by Nick Hanover

Lord Buffalo

My first night in Austin I stumbled into Skinny’s Ballroom and thought I had interrupted a revivalist ritual. There were four men on stage, each looking like a dust bowl wanderer, hooting and hollering as they unleashed a cyclonic racket. I felt newly baptized, possessed by holy ghosts from sepia tone Texas plains. The room may have been near empty but I guarantee every one of us there walked away converted to the cult of Lord Buffalo.

Now, seven years later, Lord Buffalo have unveiled their bible, a self-titled LP where the sound of the band is closer to the end times visions of Revelations than the passionate if ominous psalms I first encountered. That change in direction was revealed last August, when they released the “Axolotl”/”Indian Summer” single. Daniel Pruitt’s voice no longer pushed up against the sky like a modern Tower of Babel, instead it took a diminished role, near conversational as it expressed what may have been a sorrowful resignation at the state of the world, whimpers and moans perpetually on the edge of some kind of explosion.

Those twin singles also showcased a dronier edge to the band’s musical approach as well, with “Axolotl” essentially built out of a single hammering chord, the guitar, bass and drums all echoing each other as the fiddle and vocals explore overtone possibilities. Even “Indian Summer,” one of the sparsest moments on the album, eventually turns into a dirge after the expansive, flat plains beauty of the start gives way to one of the band’s trademark symphonic outros.

But it’s a new song that best showcases the possibilities of this sound. Named for the Latin phrase for “stone breaker,” “Saxifrage” bridges Pruitt’s previously more Romantic vocal approach with the ornate new style as the instruments veer off into counter-melodies when they’re not mirroring the flat, martial rhythm. The finale, which takes up more than half of the song’s near ten minute running time, even offers an honest to god hook in its bassline, a looping scale, pushing Pruitt to finally give in to those sky scraping vocals for a moment before everything falls, closing on a long, devastating drone, like a leviathan howling in pain from unseen depths.

It’s a pity, then, that “Saxifrage” isn’t allowed to be the final moment of the album. Instead that honor is given to the out of place “Cimarron,” a jumbled, fitful track that veers dangerously close to “Red Hot Chili Peppers gone alt-country” territory. Perhaps as a separate, isolated release “Cimarron” would fare better but within the context of such a delicate and measured album as this it’s off putting and disruptive, like doing a keg stand at a dinner party.

But up until that moment, Lord Buffalo’s self-titled LP is mesmerizing, an impassioned and startling work that successfully translates the dangerous beauty of the deepest parts of the West into a musical experience. It is an album that seeks to tackle the fears of looming end times not with analysis and commentary but by an embrace of the feeling of oblivion in all its incomprehensible majesty.

Lord Buffalo’s self-titled debut comes out November 17th but you can preorder it now from their Bandcamp. You can see them on Saturday, October 21st at Rock Bottom as part of our AH-FUCC festival.

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Nick Hanover got his degree from Disneyland, but he’s the last of the secret agents and he’s your man. Which is to say you can find his particular style of espionage here at Ovrld as well as Loser City, where he mostly writes about comics. You can also flip through his archives at  Comics Bulletin, which he is formerly the Co-Managing Editor of, and Spectrum Culture, where he contributed literally hundreds of pieces for a few years. Or if you feel particularly adventurous, you can always witness his odd .gif battles with his friends and enemies on twitter: @Nick_Hanover