As has been related elsewhere, I met Black Sabbath, Uriah Heep and assorted seventies noise-makers in Rod Amberton’s bedroom. I also encountered a band less well-known outside these sunburned shores: the hard riffing Sydney band, Buffalo.
Buffalo’s first two albums were popular amongst teenage boys of a certain age, and although I managed to find a second-hand copy of their debut, Volcanic Rock eluded me until Aztec Music re-issued it on CD in 2005. Not long after, I heard that dodgy re-issue label Akarma had re-pressed Volcanic Rock on vinyl (2003). Glancing furtively over my shoulder, I quashed my ethical (and aesthetic) misgivings and placed the order.
There was plenty of raucous rock and roll in Aus during the early seventies, but Buffalo were different: more insistent, heavier, harder. A rock quartet who took no prisoners; volcanic rock whose texture is definitely more granite than pumice. So for this post it seemed fitting to recruit a colleague better credentialed for explorations at the heavy end of the periodic table.
Welcome, Victim of the Fury.
Tell me, Vic, how did you hear about Buffalo?
Vic: My discovery of Buffalo was concurrent with my introduction to the blogging world. I was going through a phase of seeking out new old heavy music circa 2010 when I came across a now-defunct blog on which unsanctioned links to mp3 copies of “long-lost” albums were regularly posted. I’m not proud of it, but I was introduced via those ill-gotten downloads to many early-70s bands previously unknown to me, including Dust, Bang, Necromandus, the original Iron Maiden, and myriad others.
While there were no survivors when, guilt-ridden, I finally opted in 2013 to leave the life of crime behind via a digital culling, thanks to a subsequent Amazon pilgrimage, I am now able to bask in the resurrected physical glory of the two forsaken albums for which I most yearned, Leaf Hound’s Growers of Mushroom and Buffalo’s Volcanic Rock. For Buffalo, it was that fantastic Aztec Music re-issue that offered my path back to the heavy light.
VC: Are there bands they remind you of? Like, “I was playing some Sabbath last night and I thought, what I really need now is Buffalo”?
Vic: Unlike many of the lesser known early-70s heavy bands mentioned above, Buffalo manage to avoid being mired in their time. I think new listeners will be surprised at how much Volcanic Rockhas in common with the instrumental heavy psych-rock bands of today. I hear the DNA of Earthless, The Atomic Bitchwax, and even Sleep rising from Buffalo’s primordial soup. Vocally, Buffalo’s Dave Tice brings to mind the gravel-throated splendor of Richie Havens or Joe Cocker, but with a smokier low end.
VC: If I recall, you acquired Volcanic Rock while resident in Egypt. Were Buffalo and the land of the Pharaohs a match made in heaven?
Vic: I did finally get my CD edition of Volcanic Rock while in Egypt thanks to a long-awaited price drop that allowed me to shift it from the “Wish List” to the VotF shelves. I hadn’t thought of the geographic connection before but, in retrospect, the Moses-themed song “The Prophet” certainly fit with my eventual desire to escape the cacophony of Pharaoh’s crowded megalopolis and just wander in the desert for a bit.
VC: “The Prophet” is fabulous—probably the centerpiece of the album. Moses out of 70s Sydney; who’d a thought it? Staying with the music, Volcanic Rock bursts out of the blocks with the energetic chug of “Sunrise (Come My Way)”, also released as a single in 1973. The 7” version cut out the guitar solo, which was a pity as John Baxter’s guitar playing is universally excellent. If you can be heavy and fluid at the same time, he does it.
Vic: I think it is the band’s ability to sustain that energetic chug across all the tracks, even as tempos shift, that makes the album such a consistently brilliant whole. And I second your praise for Baxter; my favorite parts of all the songs are the extended guitar-led psychedelic jams for which Buffalo always made room. I think those molten jams are what led to the proto-Stoner label often being applied to this album, coupled of course with the occasional lyrical reference to minotaurs and the slight skunky smell given off it as it seers its way into the listener’s brain.
VC: The promotional sticker on the Aztec re-issue called the music “Explosive Stoner Rock”, and that capacity to stretch out and jam in a style both intense and languid is, I guess, what stoner rock is about. “Freedom”, the second track, is a fine example.
Now, what about that cover?
Vic: Dude, I’m not sure I actually want to understand what’s going on there. Maybe it was meant to be a prophetic foretelling of the coming of Lorena Bobbit?
VC: Ha! In the liner notes, Dave Tice is unrepentant. “Our idea was to be controversial,” he said in 2005 (Ed: Mission accomplished, Dave). “We wanted people to say ‘what the fuck is this; we’d better have a listen’. It’s the visual experience that can entice you.” Not sure I was enticed, Vic—more puzzled and slightly revolted.
Vic: Whatever the intention, I’m glad Robin Trower was thoughtful enough to provide the more weak-stomached among us a Disney version of Buffalo’s Bakshi-esque nightmare on the non-gatefold cover of his 1986 Passion LP.
VC: Indeed. Any final thoughts on Volcanic Rock?
Vic: Just my admission that I was unaware of Buffalo’s origins before the excellent packaging of my Aztec CD informed me that they were “Australia’s legendary psych-rock band.” While it would have been nice had you down-under types not so selfishly kept the legend to yourselves back in ‘73, I’m happy as a dingo with a baby to see the historical slight being remedied here under the auspices of the country’s premier vinyl authority.
VC: I think you mean “peculiar vinyl authority”. Still, that sounds like the final word to me. (Except to encourage readers to follow the link and check out the Victim of the Fury blog. It’s a great read.)