The Heavy Psych lords of King Buffalo have done it: The “Pandemic Trilogy” has finally reached its conclusion. What started with the excellent The Burden of Restlessness (released June 4, 2021) was supposed to be quickly followed up by two more records before 2021 ended.
But that’s not quite the way it played out. The trilogy, which promised three unique records recorded in three unique conclusions (read frontman Sean McVay’s interview for more backstory), saw its second release (Acheron) appear on December 3, 2021. Regenerator, the third installment would have to wait.
Now, nine months later, Regenerator is out. And it’s incredible.
But before we dig into what may be King Buffalo’s very best record, let’s note its place within the Pandemic Trilogy:
The Burden of Restlessness was fresh sonic territory for King Buffalo, a band that has long relied on Psychedelic highs (à la Pink Floyd) and heavy lows (à la Ufommamut), but this record was a transition into Alt Rock—even Grunge territory. The sound fit the King Buffalo mold well.
Then there was Acheron. Acheron was a lilting Psychedelic journey through four songs averaging about 10 minutes each, flipping between soft croons, heavy attacks, and bombastic guitar solos.
But now we’ve reached Regenerator. And, like in The Burden of Restlessness, we find the King Buffalo trio reimagining themselves. Even though Regenerator features all of the hallmarks you’d expect from the Rochester, NY band (extended and shimmering reverb, psychedelic soundscapes, and occasional sudden walls of sound), this album holds a certain brightness and warmth previous unheard of in a King Buffalo record. And that makes Regenerator remarkably accessible.
About King Buffalo
King Buffalo is based in Rochester, NY (just outside of Buffalo), and is made up of:
- Sean McVay – Guitar, Vocals
- Dan Reynolds – Bass
- Scott Donaldson – Drummer
Although the band initially formed in 2013 and quickly built a committed cult following, they didn’t land on the Monster Riff radar until 2020’s Dead Star, a beautifully heavy and melodic experience.
As on The Burden of Restlessness, Sean McVay also managed production, mixing, and engineering (something he took a backseat on during Acheron) for Regenerator. Mastering was managed by Bernie Matthews, while artwork was provided by Miko Del Rosario and Scott Donaldson managed layout.
Renegerator Album Review
Release Date: September 2, 2022
“Regenerator” is undeniably King Buffalo: The persistent bassline, those steady drums, and that shimmering, exploratory guitar that occasionally launches the song into a massive chorus or guitar solo.
The first of three songs running under five minutes, “Mercury” moves quicker than “Regenerator” but features a softer verse that blossoms into a chorus featuring a wall of distortion. Mysterious and ethereal, this track also features a massive third act with a wave of sound and melody.
There’s a certain intoxicating urgency in “Hours,” and although the vocals are set back ever so slightly, it’s really so the guitars can steal the show.
Primarily delivered via a single electric guitar with Sean McVay’s vocals riding atop the reverb, “Interlude” (as one would expect) provides a sonic break between the first and second halves of the album.
“Mammoth” could very well be one of King Buffalo’s very best songs to date. Although it starts predictably enough for King Buffalo—a steady rhythm section and lead guitar eventually backed by Sean McVay’s distinctive vocal delivery—there’s a certain David Gilmour influence in the lead guitar as the song builds and builds, eventually erupting into a stunning guitar solo that calls to mind Billy Corgan during supergroup Zwan’s Mary Star of the Sea album.
Like “Mammoth,” “Avalon” packs plenty of bright tones. With its powerful riffs and McVay’s urgent vocals, “Avalon” features an emotional apex with the words “I’m hoping to find my way to Avalon.” The dichotomy within “Avalon” is equally compelling: Although the chorus stands toe-to-toe with any King Buffalo track, the verse features ethereal clouds of guitars and reverb that are entirely warm and inviting.
The second-longest track on Regenerator, “Firmament” is a long, intense burn that gradually builds until it erupts into massive guitar solos and aggressive riffs that will call to mind the heaviness of Dead Star. Here, we also find Sean McVay showcasing more of his chops as a singer, stretching to hit notes instead of sticking to the sort of soft, rhythmic chanting he does so well. Thanks to “Firmament,” the band concludes the album on one of their heaviest and coolest riffs—a strong ending to a strong album.
Standout Tracks: “Regenerator,” “Mammoth,” and “Avalon”
Pros: If you’ve listened to King Buffalo for any amount of time, you can spot a KB album when you hear one.
And that’s not to say they’ve become repetitive; King Buffalo simply has a distinctive sonic fingerprint that charms listeners from album to album,
But Regenerator demonstrates significant growth in their songwriting and delivery. The album is consistent and compelling, using warmth and optimism to channel friendly vibes before pulling you back into the churning, heavy soundscapes they’ve grown so skilled at developing.
Cons: Regenerator is, in my opinion, King Buffalo’s best album to date. Period. The biggest challenge that Regenerator presents is to the true Metal, Stoner, and Doom fans who like their music muddied, distorted, and as heavy as an anvil. King Buffalo may lose listeners on this record, but they’ll endear others from all over the world.