Hailing from the Japanese music scene in the 90s and cranking out breakthrough releases one after another in the early 2000s – Boris has become an internationally celebrated name in the underground music scene after years of touring, collaborations and adventurously prolific output. I myself discovered them more than a year ago through their 2002 Heavy Rocks album (I suggest you start from there if you haven’t heard any music from them before), and the more I dug into their discography the more it became apparent that the band is truly what you would call “experimental” – from pop to harsh noise, one thing Boris seemingly hates to do is to paint themselves in a stylistic corner.
Not all of their genre-hopping resulted in great albums but it is something to be admired, and probably because almost all of the biggest highlights in their discography are gigantic, densely riff-textured albums (Flood, Feedbacker, Amplifier Worship, to name a few) – Boris is generally considered an experimental rock band.
My hype for this record started when the band announced that they were signed under Third Man Records to release a new double album – which is their 25th studio album. And hearing their teaser track LOVE, I braced myself for a heavy release.
And boy, is it heavy! And it’s much more than that.
The opening track, Away From You, feels like taking a slow morning walk through a serene forest, with that warm bassline and light percussion pacing it – it’s pretty reminiscent of a post-rock song. Then there’s the piercing bright guitar passage that feels like sunshine peeking through the leaves, washing my face. It’s such a great opener.
Comparatively, Coma feels like whiplash, the bright guitar from the opener coils around a droning distorted one. The leading guitar feels like it’s guiding me through a dark tunnel towards an opening or a light, but the light never gets closer. So it just fades away.
EVOL is the longest track on the LP (around 16 and a half minutes), and it’s probably the most compositionally dense. It starts with a marching, tribalistic percussion which gives away to a more shoegaze-y/post-rocky passage. Takeshi’s soft vocals come in, forming a chant and Wata’s divine riffing starts soon after that. It’s my favorite part of the track. It’s a pretty phasic song, it then swings back to the chants with a percussion behind it this time and Wata’s riffing more in the background – and the track closes with a cacophony of vocal samples from a protest (?). Nevertheless, EVOL is epic – it soars, it uplifts me.
Transitioning to uzume, which is probably the heaviest sounding track on the album. The guitars are thunderous, with shrill scratchy chirping around them. And they keep swelling throughout the track’s runtime. If Coma was about going through a dark tunnel with hope in sight, uzume is void of any of that, it just shoves me down a bottomless pit. And the track ends abruptly.
LOVE is feverish and addictive. The melting vocals and the swirling lead guitar’s stoner-rock-flavored brightness gives a strong entrancing psychedelic quality to the track to an otherwise straight drone cut. The percussion is loose but kind of steady at the same time, so that the pacing of the entire song doesn’t melt into a track that overstays its welcome.
In the Pain (T) is probably the only underwhelming track on the album for me. I know it’s a transitional cut, but I think it overstays its welcome. I don’t really think it’s a dud because it transitions nicely to the next song but it could have been shorter.
The ending track, Shadow of Skull, is reminiscent of tracks off Dear, it’s not as sludgy but it’s damn atmospheric. The vocals take on a sinister tone, and the guitar rolls and roars all the way through. The album comes to a rolling, warping halt with that – it disappears to the ether.
I really enjoyed this record, but I wouldn’t be as enthused to rank this among their best releases yet. To the uninitiated, I doubt this album would sound as ground-breaking as their masterpieces like Feedbacker, Pink, Amplifier Worship, Flood or Heavy Rocks. But if nothing else, I see this LP being sort of a strong revival of their established sound – a rekindling of their fading flames since the 2010s – and they did it in a really cohesive and exciting way.