Buffalo Death Beam’s second album, “Salvation for Ordinary People,” is a nice gem that stands out in the increasingly saturated folk/folk rock genre.
Coming out of Pullman, Wash., the band clearly has potential and is starting to gain wider recognition in the area after Jan. 1’s “Salvation” and an earlier EP’s release.
The album’s strongest track is its first one, “Staff of the Shepherd,” which uses warm, vocal harmonies, driving rhythm and airy, acoustic atmospheres interlaced with well-placed electric guitar and other effects
The song transitions seamlessly between three different sections of varied tempo and meter, switching to 3/4 time after close to one minute into the second section, which is followed by a hard, percussive pulse in the last section. The interesting melodies, variance, driving rhythm and powerful vocals pack a lot of punch into four and a half minutes.
Unfortunately, this opening sets expectations high for the rest of the album. The other songs are good, but it’s disappointing to hear that no other tracks carry quite the same punch. This is one of the downsides of beginning an album with your best work. It grabs attention immediately, but can be a bit of a letdown during the course of the album.
The following track, “Motel Queen,” maintains the previously attained drive. It is hard, fast and fun but not nearly as awe-inspiring (not that every track should be).
“Lonely Mouth,” the third track, is an improvment. It reverts back to powerful vocals that begin quietly, but have a more climactic ending. The song also features nice mandolin and violin instrumentation.
Other main highlights of the album include “We Drink Beer,” a pleasant waltz reminiscent of Jack Ruby Presents; “Look Homeward, Angel”; and the final track, “Madmen Choir,” a disjointed tune that features eerie banjo, mandolin and accordion sounds backed by an odd, pounding percussion line.
The band’s most evident strength is its vocals, combining multiple voices to create lovely harmonies backed by strong lyrics and singing. Other significant areas include its varied instrumentation and percussion with a drummer who does much more than simply maintain a beat.
While far from perfect, “Salvation For Ordinary People” is a great showcase of Buffalo Death Beam’s obvious talent and potential, so keep an ear out for more.
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“Salvation For Ordinary People,” released January 1.
Braden Smith/KSLC 90.3 FM
Braden Smith can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.