Album Review-*shels-Plains of the Purple Buffalo
Posted by RiffRaff
While I sit here listening to Plains of the Purple Buffalo I can’t help but to fade out writing and get absorbed in the soundscapes that *shels have crafted. Seriously, I before I just wrote that first line I was staring mindlessly into the cover of the album while the music painted a picture of lush rolling plains and passing winds. This wasn’t the first time this album did it to me either in this or previous listens. Not often is a band able to entrance me so much………….. Damn, again, I think I might have to turn off the music if I want to finish this review.
The strength Plains of the Purple Buffalo has is its ability to craft these giant, beautiful, and colorful pictures with sound. As a song starts off it comes in mildly and introduces you to the canvas. Then after you get to know the canvas colors start to get added and layered on top and you start to see the background. More detail gets added to the background making a more vivid picture and then forefront images get layered on. At a certain point the picture will come to life and all they layering comes together and puts on a majestic display of color and nature putting you in a complete serene and tranquil trance.
One thing that really sets Plains of the Purple Buffalo apart from other contemporaries in the post-metal/rock genre is the use of a horn section, in particular the trumpet. Along with creating commanding tones, the trumpet adds a wild west feel to the songs, similar to its use in Ennio Morricone’s music in the Sergio Leone films(The Good, The Bad, The Ugly, ect.). *shels also knows how to utilize their metal part really well. While for the most part the music is laid back and relaxing there comes certain crescendos where the music just explodes and there is an accompaniment of distorted guitars and harsh screamed vocals. When these occurrences happen the harshness never hit as jarring nor pulls you out of the picture being created, but add even more to the images being conjured up. For example on the first song “Journey to the Plains” you may be imagining crossing by a seaside on a nice breeze, then the distortion kicks in and instead of pulling you out it makes an image of the wind picking up and the waves start to stir. The harsh vocals come in(which are not in the forefront, but put in a lower layer so they are not over bearing) and they make one think of the waves pulsing against the jetty. Then the vocals switch for a mesmerizing guitar lead that ties the whole picture together and the repetition of “Where are we going” adds a final context to the overall theme of the images. I hope that all makes sense to you all :)
As the title and album cover imply there is a running theme of the Native Americans. But don’t think of spaghetti westerns and pow-wows(even though “Vision Quest” will make you feel as if you took part in one of those peyote rituals). Think of the sprawling and beautiful landscapes that the Native Americans once lived on. The lush plains, the great shores, the rolling hills peppered with buffalo, and the cold mountains. Think nature. Along with the theme of the Native Americans there are also Oriental themes and sounds that pop up often too and add a nice unique flavor and color to feel of Plains of the Purple Buffalo.
On a whole I really enjoyed Plains of the Purple Buffalo as it is a very captivating and trance inducing, dreamlike album. My only gripe is, at times *shels has a tendency to meander in the atmosphere a bit to long and for some I can see that equaling boring. I recommend giving it a listen especially if you want some music to completely zone out to. Post-metal/rock isn’t really for everybody, but if you enjoy the genre definitely check this one out, and if you are a newcomer or are interested in what the genre has to offer this release is at the top of its class and is a great jumping in point.