1. Sunrise (Come My Way)
3. Till My Death
4. The Prophet
5. (i) Intro: Pound of Flesh
6. (ii) Shylock
If you know of Australia’s Buffalo at all, it’s likely because the late Pete Wells, who would gain fame as founder/slide guitarist of Rose Tattoo, played bass with them.
But it was the unsung duo of vocalist Dave Tice and six-stringer John Baxter who gave this beast its rip-snorting, hoof-pounding USP. Tice – who would later hook up with rowdy UK pub rockers the Count Bishops – howls and hollers over Baxter’s ear-perforating, proto-metal licks and the result is so feral and primitive, it hits you like a Cro-Magnon’s cudgel to the cranium.
“Volcanic Rock is where we really crystallised our sound and direction,” says Tice. “The lineup was stable and we had a lot of gigs under our belts, so we were tight and focused. We were all on top of our game.”
And then some. Opening track Sunrise (Come My Way) balances Tice’s gnawing holler with Baxter’s six-string savagery, all wrapped up in a pro-environment/anti-war message; The Prophet takes the tale of Moses and turns it into a biblical horror story; the feral Pound Of Flesh gives way to the sinister Shylock, Tice demanding: ‘Pay me now! Pay me now!’
Volcanic Rock also came in a controversial cover: a graphic depiction of a volcano shaped like a female torso and menstruating molten lava. An androgynous, flame-haired demon stands on top of the volcano, holding up a phallus-shaped rock.
“We weren’t being played on radio and we needed our albums to stand out in the record shops,” says Baxter. “I just wish that Volcanic Rock featured a burning guitar above the creature’s head. The artist must’ve thought we were a bunch of chauvinists. He might’ve been right.”
In June 2018, Tice celebrated the album's 45th birthday by bringing his Buffalo Revisited project to the Bald Faced Stag Hotel in Sydney. The show was recorded, and released early the following year as Volcanic Rock Live.
Every week, Album of the Week Club listens to and discusses the album in question, votes on how good it is, and publishes our findings, with the aim of giving people reliable reviews and the wider rock community the chance to contribute.
Other albums released in August 1973
- (Pronounced 'Lĕh-'nérd 'Skin-'nérd) - Lynyrd Skynyrd
- Goats Head Soup - The Rolling Stones
- Boulders - Roy Wood
- Deliver the Word - War
- Future Days - Can
- Hard Nose the Highway - Van Morrison
- Legend - Henry Cow
- No Sweat - Blood, Sweat & Tears
- Unlucky Boy - Chicken Shack
- Valley Hi - Ian Matthews
- Brothers And Sisters - The Allman Brothers Band
- Yeah! - Brownsville Station
What they said...
"The mid-album vibe almost gets too basic and laid-back come the unremarkable Pound of Flesh, but any serious concerns are quickly crushed under the stampeding, LP-closing eruption of Shylock, which introduces Shakespeare to Black Sabbath by way of Budgie and Steppenwolf, and brings Volcanic Rock's most distinctive and powerful qualities full circle for an explosive finale. (AllMusic)
"The Prophet slows things down a bit, which is perfect: this band excels when going heavier and slower, and it’s also where their personality shines. Dave Tice’s vocals soar with a ton of ’70s gruff-guy grit ‘n’ melody, but they’re charming enough to make you wonder why this band didn’t get bigger than they did. A killer song, one that has enough metal heft to sound great to longhairs today, but also enough free-flowin’ ’70s vibes to make it a hit back then." (Decibel)
"After listening to this album, Kyuss and early Soundgarden sound like Buffalo replicas, and Sleep seems like a new heavy reincarnation of the band, with tracks like Freedom and The Prophet being the best examples. Their riffs are very drug fueled, semi-progressive and have a very distorted sound, a thing that won't be heard until Soundgarden's debut EP – which shows how much this band was way ahead of its time." (Encyclopaedia Metallum)
What you said...
Mark Herrington: I chanced upon this album a few months ago, and have had it on repeat ever since. The primal, bluesy, hard rock here is a mix of thundering anthems and meandering rock landscapes. The album has travelled well in the last 50 years and doesn’t sound dated at all, reminding me of more recent bands like Clutch.
Dave Tice has a tremendous, distinctive vocal style that has a great balance of gravel and power. The highlights are Sunrise, Freedom and the awesome Shylock, whilst the middle tracks offer slower blues based heavy rock panoramas and more heavy rock anthems. There is some Sabbath inspiration evident here, but it’s not too obvious .
The only possible improvement would have been a replacement of the album cover with a Frank Frazetta depiction of something suitably Volcano/Buffalo centric. A great distinctive rock classic that for some reason didn’t quite become as popular as it should have done.
Mike Canoe: Atomic twoster? More thundering proto-metal from the early '70s, this time by way of Australia. Had never heard of the band or album before this week. Odds are if you liked the album by Atomic Rooster (or Kyuss), you'll like this one. My current favorite is the plodding Freedom, which plods like an advancing army not like a band who has lost the plot.
Singer Dave Tice has a great gravelly voice and John Baxter has plenty of opportunity to unleash six-string shock and awe thanks to the solid rhythm section of bassist Peter Wells and drummer Jimmy Economou. The original side two takes the lyrics in an odd direction. First they extoll the Old Testament's Moses on the longish The Prophet, then excoriate the villain from Shakespeare's The Merchant Of Venice on the really longish Shylock. Makes for a strange combination. As always, excited to hear a "new to me" band, especially one not from the US or UK.
Uli Hassinger: I ran into Buffalo because I read that this was the former band of Rose Tattoo's Peter Wells. This album is typical 70s rock, combining hard riffing with blues and some psychedelic vibes. They were labeled as the Australian Black Sabbath and the influences are indeed very present.
It's hard to pick out one song because the album is like an entire jam session. A good and representative and characteristic album of the early 70s. For anyone who wants to dig deeper in the music of Buffalo I gave the follow up a go and the songs are much tighter and heavier. A few years later this would be called Heavy Metal. An absolute cracker of an album.
Chris Elliott: I think I must be hearing a different album. How you react to the words "blues jam" or – even worse – "psychedelic blues jam" will determine your reaction to this. It's pretty bad. OK it's truly awful. There's barely a song to be found under the "jamming". Time isn't kind to these records.
Greg Schwepe: Volcanic Rock from Buffalo is a bit of a strange animal (no pun intended). Typical early 70s rock that seems to hover over several genres, but back then it seems like there were no rules as some of these styles were still being created. Somehow in music we still seem to want to find a box to neatly put our bands into. Band and album I'd never heard of.
With this Aussie album you get six tracks across roughly 37 minutes. I’ll do the math for you, that’s about six minutes per track. I kind of laughed as I envisioned myself as if I had been pulling this out of the album sleeve back in the 70s and seeing three wide tracks per side on the vinyl. “Wow, those are long songs…” Plenty of time to stretch out with some extended guitar solos and jams which is done on all six tracks. Each one is like the live album version of a three-minute song which gets the longer treatment. And who doesn’t like that? I like the guitar tone and riffs.
My initial impression was that this album is more on the rock side, but kind of jam-y, kind of experimental-y, and at times kind of psychedelic-y. That’s a lot of “Y’s” there. Nice sound, seems produced well. Does not sound "flat" like some low budget recordings from that era. And I like the vocals and instrumentation. Envisioned guitar player in studio slinging a Les Paul or SG in front of a Marshall stack, because, that’s pretty much what I envision all 70s rock bands like this played! And to keep with the Australian theme, a few tracks the vocalist kind of sounded like fellow Aussie Jimmy Barnes.
Favourite track was The Prophet which probably has more variety in song structure and sound than some of the other tracks. I actually started the album over again and began listening a second time after the first go through. Everything seemed to gel for me with no “gee, what the heck is that?” tracks.
Overall, a good album, not a great one. I just happen to like early 70s “forgotten” (or never found?) stuff like this. 7 out of 10 despite the cover! I generally have a policy of not reviewing albums with naked guys on the cover, but did anyways for the good of the Club! Just hope Rush's Hemispheres doesn't ever get chosen or will have to break my policy again.
Gary Claydon: Fancy a chunk of metallic-edged, '70s hard rock, marinated in heavy psyche? Then you could do worse than invest around 38 minutes of your time in Volcanic Rock by Aussie bruisers Buffalo.
There is nothing complicated about Volcanic Rock. It's a step up from debut long player Dead Forever and rocks hard and heavy from opener Sunrise (Come My Way) to the closing Shylock - no wimp-out balladry here, cobber! The Sabbath influence is clear, especially on the aforementioned Shylock plus maybe a hint of early Budgie, but Buffalo also share some common ground with the likes of Mountain and Flower Travellin' Band.
Volcanic Rock is delivered with a degree of strut and swagger, thanks largely to Dave Tice, whose vocals often sound like a cross between Dan McCafferty and John Fogerty. While Tice is on fine form, for my money the star of this particular show is six-string slinger John Baxter. I always thought Baxter was the real spark behind Buffalo and it was no surprise that their fortunes took a downturn after he was sacked. There is a shit-load of crunching riffery and Baxter gets plenty of space to stretch out on the longer tracks Freedom and The Prophet. The rhythm section is solid with future Rose Tattoo slide man Pete Wells on bass duty. Production is on the raw side but I reckon it works nicely.
So, is Buffalo's Rock truly Volcanic? Hell, yeah! Essential listening? No but it is recommended. Oh, and the cover depicts a naked giant standing on a volcano, holding a dick aloft. Make your own mind up on that one!
Robby Jackson: Loved it. Worth a listen multiple times. First time I have heard of them.
John Davidson: It's an interesting mix of Black Sabbath style heavy metal and Hawkwindish heavy psychedelia.
It's very listenable but somehow doesn't cross over into 'wow' territrory. Maybe if I'd bought it in the 70s and played it to death then it would have more resonance now but listening to it for the first time this week it doesn't quite have the grabbing power to make me add it my collection.
Final score: 7.25 (29 votes cast, total score 210)
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