Release Date: May 24, 2011
Record label: Sargent House
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock
Not to be confused with their classic 2002 album, Heavy Rocks, the latest missive from Japanese face-melters Boris reportedly shares the same name (and similar cover art) because the band wants to “redefine” heavy music this time out. Inscrutable concept aside, the new Heavy Rocks doesn’t so much redefine heavy music as reconsolidate all the things fans already love about Boris. Tracks like “Galaxians,” “Window Shopping,” “Aileron,” and the Ian Astbury-assisted “Riot Sugar” are filled with wailing wah-wah leads, armor-piercing fuzz, thundering drums, and dreamy vocals, all delivered with a dynamic that’s less soft/loud than ethereal/assaultive.
Two albums for the price of one? Almost, not quite... Okay, Boris; now you’re just taking the piss. Yep, not only are the insanely prolific Japanese outfit releasing two new albums simultaneously, but in the case of ‘Heavy Rocks’, they’re also recycling the title of an old one. Still, said record does exactly what it says on the tin, veering between fuzzed-up garage rock stomp and mesmeric psychedelic sprawl in a manner that’s sure to delight fans of 09’s ‘Smile’.
I guess in order to facilitate the notion that you’re hard to pin down it pays to be hard to pin down. The versatility and genre hopping that Japanese metal/drone/guitar trio Boris cultivate allows them to navigate a slew of creative options, whether that be from a collaborative standpoint (BXI, Altar) or from a more back-up capacity (Merzbow). The shared release of the guitar-driven Heavy Rocks and the more minimal experiments of Attention Please only further establish the band as a veritable jack-of-all-trades by way of rock music, their disregard for confinement a big push toward… well, any creative avenue they see fit to touch their tread upon.
This is a busy year for Boris: the Japanese drone-metal-psych-shoegaze band released three full length albums plus an album length collaboration with Merzbow. Here we have the last two of the three Boris albums, two albums that at first seem to have nothing in common except that they represent the band’s interest in creating different sounds and trying out new genres. Attention Please is the more dramatic shift; not only does guitarist Wata provide vocals for the first time (and she sings lead the whole album), the album consists of less guitar-oriented more pop-influenced songs.
Heavy Rocks is one of two simultaneously released albums by Japan's power trio Boris on the Sargent House imprint. The other is Attention Please. It is also one of four planned full-lengths by the group during calendar year 2011. (The other two are a collaboration with Masami Akita -- aka Merzbow -- entitled Klatter, and New Album, which mixes tracks from Attention Please and Heavy Rocks with other new material.
Sorry everyone, but Boris is never going to remake Pink, their 2005 opus that so expertly combined punk-metal grit with crushingly huge shoegaze moments, and arguably gained them their largest contingent of American fans and critical fawning. If the subsequent Smile and the Japanese Heavy Rock Hits 7" series were any indication, the long running Japanese-trio simply had no interest in revisiting or revising past triumphs. In fact, if the three members of Boris were Major League Baseball pitchers instead of musicians, everybody would be hitting home runs off of them because they only have one kind of pitch: curveballs.
Boris have never been one for hedged bets or bridled ambitions. In the past 15 years, the Japanese trio has released more than 20 albums of heavy eclecticism-- stoner bludgeons and thrash blasts, dense drones and noise screes. They're the band with Atsuo-- the screaming, gong-banging drummer with one of those arena-rock, hands-off microphones-- and Takeshi, a multi-instrumentalist who plays a double-necked guitar so often and well that it doesn't seem like an affectation.
The thing about going about your biz in the way Boris have done for most of their existence, switching styles from release to release with almost no repetition, is that it pretty much ensures you’ll be more admired than adored. Boris have a tangible fanbase, no denying that: larger outside of Japan, their home country, but when they tour the UK next month, they can expect to pull a few hundred souls into most of their shows. And although 90 percent of people who say things like 'forget about trying to sell albums, man, it’s over – merch at gigs is where the real money’s at' are deluded pig people, in the case of Boris they have a point.
As if forging an alternate history, Boris' Heavy Rocks shares a title and comparable artwork with the Japanese outfit's 2002 LP, a classic power trio rendering of modern doom metal. That's where similarities end. Heavy Rocks (2011) improves on the glam thrash of previous studio release Smile (2008) with two centerpiece epics, three-act torrential ballad "Missing Pieces" and "Aileron," a 12-minute glacial drone that's nearly a sequel to Pink's "Farewell." There are misfires (speed-metal chaser "Czechoslovakia"), but the bottom-heavy "Tu, La La" lets the Led out.