By Mike O’Cull
Buffalo Fuzz is a tough-toned, supremely distorted heavy blues/rock duo from Minnesota that gets it done the hard way on its latest release Volume II. The record drops June 5th, 2020 and is overloaded with gritty blues/stoner/doom tracks that hit harder than expected. Jared Zachary (guitar, lead vocals) and Jake Allan (drums, backing vocals) are a two-man groove factory in the Black Sabbath mode, kicking out power-chord-and-drum jams topped with wailing vocals that often deal with themes of life and death. Sadly, those themes hit way too close to home in this case, as drummer Allan took his own life a month after completing these recording sessions.
After Allan’s loss, Buffalo Fuzz ground to a halt and the 11 tracks laid down for Volume II were shelved for many months until remaining band member Zachary was able to return to them. He finally finished the mixes of these songs captured on the exact same Studer tape machine that recorded Nirvana’s In Utero and now we can hear the greatness the two men achieved. This was to be the second Buffalo Fuzz release, a record full of growth and future promise. Instead, it’s become a posthumous tribute to what could have been and lets the world hear Zachary and Allan’s final sessions together. It’s a tremendously powerful set that digs deep into the human condition and the existential despair of the blues.
Volume II goes hard from the first needle drop on the opening song “The Reaper.” It’s an uptempo shuffle but this is the furthest thing from a party record you’re likely to hear this year. The track, like the whole album, comes off as a lamentation. Zachary and Allen tap into the angst and darkness at the heart of blues music like two 21st Century Robert Johnsons. They rock hard and exhale the pain of living in every note and word. The chorus is bone-chilling and unsettling below its driving rhythm and the two men wail their vocal harmonies as if Ol’ Scratch were really chasing them down.
The journey continues with the outsider anthem “Black Sheep Blues.” It’s a big blast of timeless riff rock and the raw-nerve energy of someone who is always on the outside looking in. Zachary’s voice swims in reverb and soars over the track’s primal pocket. Buffalo Fuzz is undoubtedly the biggest-sounding rock duo of all time and this song displays the stadium-sized thrills the pair were capable of.
“I’m On Fire” is moody and full of a smoldering intensity aimed squarely at the female object of a man’s desire. Jared and Jake harmonize powerfully while conjuring a below-the-belt groove that leaves little to the mind’s eye. The raw vulnerability of this band is the spark that drives its wheels, pulls you into its world, and makes you understand. There’s nothing forced or phony here and the two men hold nothing back. They mean every second of this record and cut through the plastic cheese that currently passes for rock music like a samurai sword.
“Buffalo Stomp” is a commanding hard rock song with an apocalyptic vibe that fits the zeitgeist of our ongoing pandemic experience exceptionally well. “You’ll feel it shaking through the ground when the buffalo puts his foot down” Zachary sings with an intimidating intent that will make you stop and contemplate if we’re really facing the end. The drums and guitars rage and roar, defining the track’s ragged glory.
Deeper into Volume II, Zachary and Allen surprise listeners with a totally sludged-out take on Cream’s “Sunshine Of Your Love” that’s slow, heavy, and spectacular. Imagine Ozzy and Iommi writing this instead of Clapton and Bruce and you’ll get it. Be sure to also spin “Bad Circulation” and “Too Young To Die.” Buffalo Fuzz is/was a rock band with truly legendary potential and Volume II is proof positive of that fact. Hopefully, Zachary will find a way to continue the group, as this is the kind of music that touches lives and creates forever fans. Play these tracks loud and revel in their catharsis.
Listen to the preview of “Buffalo Stomp”
Buffalo Fuzz Online