Release Date: Jun 17, 2014
Record label: Sargent House
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Indie Rock, Alternative Metal, Heavy Metal, Experimental Rock
Absolutego? Magnificent. Amplifier Worship? Even better. Heavy Rocks (orange), Akuma no Uta, …Feedbacker – all near perfect. Pink? One of the best heavy metal albums ever made. Yet most metal fans have never heard of, let alone heard any of the music of, Boris. Could this be because they’re ….
In 2011, the metal-gone-multi trio reverently dubbed Boris (big ups to Melvins) decided to give pop rock and dance a try with their release, Attention Please, an album that explored the basics of verse-chorus-verse atop rhythmic persistence and spare and accessible instrumentation. I still consider it a fascinating listen. While the change in direction for the band creatively was likely met with less resistance thanks to Heavy Rocks, (an album simultaneously released with Attention Please that saw the band throwing down in its familiar, heavily distorted way), it was still a ballsy move for a band who’d partnered with the likes of Sunn O))) and Merzbow.
As their time spent celebrating a love of heavy sounds and crushing guitar tones approached nearly 20 years, Japanese band Boris had released hours and hours of music, getting into everything from drone metal to shoegaze-inspired pop. Noise, the 19th proper full-length in a discography full of collaborations, EPs, and miscellaneous work, does much to tie together the band's always restless muse. Beginning with the one-two punch of huge alt-rock blasts "Melody" and "Vanilla" covers their penchant for melodic post-grunge still overpowering with fuzzy guitar tones and overblown drums.
Over 22 years and 19 studio albums it’s fair to say that Boris has always been a band to explore new musical territory and revel in experimentation. This makes them a gloriously difficult band to pigeonhole and define accurately, simply because it is virtually impossible anticipate their next move. This is, after all, a band who released three very different albums in one year alone (Attention Please, Heavy Rocks, and New Album all arrived in 2011).
Shortly before the halfway point of “Angel”, the eighteen-minute centerpiece of Boris’ latest record, the band's guitarist Wata chases after God. The instrument of her noble pursuit is an extravagant, elegiac solo: her axe weeps and wails like a professional mourner, eventually tearing the surrounding space asunder to allow everything—the dark and the light, the leaden and the featherweight—to rush in. It's this sensation that's earned the Japanese trio a seat at the pantheon of heaviness: this alchemy by which the act of listening to loud rock music is transformed into an encounter with the sublime.
If you are here because you think I might have an answer to that question, keep looking. I have no clue. I have found myself discussing the matter in question with Japanese music critics, Norwegian musicians and even a prominent, young British historian. Nobody knows exactly what Boris—the Japanese experimental band—play or what genre it will find itself entangled with on its next release.
Head here to submit your own review of this album. Over the course of about 20 years, 19 studio albums and a few lineup shuffles, Boris has, surely, explored every facet of heavy music, from the grimiest sludge to psychedelic rock to crunchy punk, and even leaning into poppier realms from time to time. On Noise, the trio pare down a bit and deliver a rather focused (for Boris) record.
In a pureblood genre like heavy metal, there is little value in flaunting your chameleonic qualities: making out you can do anything doesn’t make you the Bowie of the riff, it just makes you look like a fly-by-night. Tokyo’s Boris are an exception, having chalked up some 20 albums that veer from earnest J-rock to blissed-out shoegazing to avant-garde amp worship; not all beloved, by any means, but definitely respected. ‘Noise’ itself runs quite the gamut: from the demented thrash of ‘Quicksilver’ to the naïve, drum machine-powered indie pop of ‘Taiyo No Baka’.
The legendary prolificacy of Boris reached a fever pitch around 2011 and 2012, when no fewer than 10 works bearing the band’s name were released. The Japanese trio hasn’t been exactly quiet since then, but enough so that Noise—its 19th full-length—comes with a bit more anticipation. After telescoping its sound and studio lineup to include a staggering array of sounds and guest musicians, Noise finds the trio stripped down to its core.
When the first snippet of Boris' 19th record surfaced earlier this year, it seemed to be a much more overtly melodic, even anthemic statement of desired accessibility than what has come before. And even though 'Quicksilver's melodic sections are bookended by the more comforting sound of plectrum-shredding and wide-eyed throat lacerations (not to mention a delightfully sludgy outro), it is a strange thing – in no way a failure, but odd that the choice to actively appeal to the ears is so pronounced. While it's fair to say that some portions of the misleadingly-titled parent album, Noise, sound like a weird, boggy no-man's land between Extreme Noise Terror and Ash, this is far more complex than the band simply "going emo".