It’s Sunday, so it must be time for me to review another folk album. I feel like that is most of what I do here but I’m also fine with that. Outside of metal, folk is what I listen to the most, so naturally I’m going to gravitate towards that, given the chance. Sometimes, I even get a chance to talk about an album that shamelessly straddles the gap between the two genres, which is exactly what Lord Buffalo’s new LP Tohu Wa Bohu does. This is Rainbows in the Dark, featuring the best of all things non-metal and metal-adjacent.
“Tohu Wa Bohu” is a Biblical Hebrew phrase that roughly translates to the concept of a void or chaos and describes the state of the universe before the act of creation. One could describe Austin, TX’s Lord Buffalo as being forces of chaos, and you wouldn’t be totally wrong, although this works in the band’s favor. Take one part American folk, throw in one part psychedelic blues, add a sprinkle of doom metal sensibilities and a touch of Swans-esque post-rock and it’s really hard to nail down what genre the band belongs in, if genres even apply anymore. The band mixes acoustic and electric guitars with Wurlitzers and pianos, pounding percussion and droning violins courtesy of maestro Patrick Patterson. Laying over the ensemble is the rugged-yet-refined baritone of frontman D.J. Pruitt, who croons, roars and howls over the swirling textures the rest of the band pieces together. The individual pieces come together to create something that is more than just the sum of its parts, and the dynamics the band plays with seem to be inspired by something otherworldly, like they were all simultaneously possessed by the same vision and the music just left them organically.
As you might expect, the individual tracks on the album each have their own particular proportions of the influences that make them up, although they all feature a little bit of everything. Opening track “Raziel” slowly builds from droning organs and eerie violin lines into huge distorted guitars and pounding drums, so heavy you’d swear this was a metal album until things take a turn for the more bluesy side on lead single “Halle Berry,” with more soulful vocals and delicate, spaced-out guitars and violins. One of the most interesting parts of this album is how the guitars and violins play with each other from start to finish. Neither one truly dominates on any particular track. Instead, they both work off each other to produce some wild sounds I definitely did not expect from either instrument. Pair that with the swirling, ominous Wurlitzer that rounds out the low end and you get the sense that these songs are never really staying in one spot. Textures are constantly shifting, dynamics are building and easing off, but Pruitt’s voice helps to keep everything grounded. It may be chaos at times, but there’s always a sense that it’s controlled chaos.
Lord Buffalo proudly describe themselves as “the loudest band on folk night and the softest on a metal bill,” which feels very fitting. I’m not going to say that it sounds a tiny bit like if the Black Keys started listening to Black Sabbath and dabbling in the Devil’s Cabbage, but yeah, maybe it sounds a little bit like that. Mix in Allman Brothers, Grateful Dead, Swans, Windhand and Blood and Sun and you might come close to being able to describe Lord Buffalo. Or better yet, don’t try and just soak it all in. This is an album that deserves to be soaked in. You’ll find yourself in a better spot because of it.