Boris is a Japanese noise/metal/experimental with twenty-five years of ongoing experience. If you haven’t heard of them, the prerequisite catalog is rather extensive and you can find it over at Sargent House –whether you start from the beginning, with a Merzbow collab, or even their most recent, you’re in for a treat. The band has managed to traverse every distortion-required genre and in the process, mastered them all. Their latest release, Dear is in some ways a celebration to 25 years of heavy-instrumentals, as well as a departure into the next stage of Boris’ evolution.
From the get-go, Boris unleashes a virtual bloodbath. The guitars lay out a heavy buzz, the distortion wraps around a mix of screeches, and the vocals provide a ghastly ambiance. Beneath the grille of your speakers lies a monster, ripping, tearing, and snarling. It generates a wall of distortion that will send shivers down your spine –the monster’s name is Dear.
Dear begins with “DOWN” or “Domination of Waiting Noise.” It’s appropriately named –the band lets out slow heavy chord after slow heavy chord. The song tickles the ears in the right way and leaves the listener wanting more –although nearly skippable (it really does feel like an ultra-long opener), it helps build the atmosphere for Boris’ track-after-track of ass-kicking.
The leap to “DEADSONG” is a bit far, but after a brief, quiet, interlude, the band picks up with the distortion again. Each percussive hit is like another crack in Earth’s tectonic plates. Every strike of electric guitar strings creates a distorted thunder. The vocals soar with an ominous overtone. The sound effects are not to be ignored –every digital, oscillating tone adds a layer of decay to the track. Twenty-five years has done Boris well and their compositional tact is stronger than ever. D is for Drone and overall, Dream is by far Boris’ most fuzzed out-droning album yet. Even during the more involved and excitable songs, such as the single, “Absolutego,” the level of distortion and pacing seems to snowball into this heavy blast of noise. With the majority of tracks sitting at marathon times –five minutes or more, it becomes a particularly intense and hypnotic listen. The instrumentals and vocals balance well, the contoured atmosphere and well placed effects make Dear special.
Make a side note, this isn’t some Sunn O)))-esque album. For the post-rock fans, with their love of crescendos; “Beyond” captures a truly moving contrast between the soft-vocals of Wata paired with ominous ringing, versus more involved vocals that battle with the dissonance of distortion and a guitar riff that begs to tear the sky in half. Each song, in its full length, features numerous details that demand your best speakers or headphones for. I’d be doing a disservice to say that writing can capture the actual experience of listening to Dear, but I’d be doing an even bigger disservice not to give Boris my praise. This is an album worthy of an anniversary.
That said, I’ll make my criticisms brief. Boris crafted a great album. It’s slow and lumbering with an evil face. Beneath the thick, demon-scaled skin is some intricate musicianship. Problematically, Dear seems a bit disjointed sometimes. There’s too many parts that feel tacked on, and for such an atmospheric album, there ought to be some better transition. Still, there’s lots of potential here for Boris to take the tracks that appear on Dear and turn them into the heaviest imaginable interludes for live shows.
On another note, some may see Boris’ ultra-heavy-droning as a cop out. Again, get better speakers and listen with some purpose. We’ll entertain that idea anyways. Maybe 25 years is too many. Maybe the band has exhausted themselves. Many of Dear’s tracks come across as needing variety. The album is by no means a thrill and the further down the droney-rabbit hole you go, the harder it is to get out –each track seems to focus more on the ringing guitar lines. If this is the position you want to take, that’s fine, but it would be a mistake to outright ignore Boris’ necromantic chimera. Dear’s beauty is, again, most beautiful in the details. Maybe it’s not the most inspired metal album as of recent, but it certainly is one of the more inspiring.
Towards the finish line, Boris slings out a particularly powerful track, “Dystopia – Vanishing Point.” The song is rather lengthy at nearly twelve minutes, but holding out is more than worthwhile. The song begins with wind-driven notes, likely a melodica. Next, crisp guitar notes alternate and build the foundation for the next movement. Vocals flood with a breathiness and for a moment, the band gives us reprieve from their heavy metal assault. There’s an air of sorrow and the instrumentals remain solemn. The percussion restrains itself. Two-thirds through a guitar wails in and begins giving a fuzzed out solo. It maintains the mood while still managing to humble the listener. After each passing second the solo gains more complexity while the percussion strikes again and again. Boris captures the dystopian atmosphere perfectly, churns it out in a heartfelt manner, and moves on to their concluding tracks.
Dear isn’t absolutely perfect, but for the noise and metal fans, it’s a worthwhile listen. The album is dense by all means, but very rewarding. A mixture of well-placed sound effects, balanced instrumentals, and well-managed ambiance marks the album as being creatively impressive and potentially inspiring. Long-time Boris fans, don’t skip this one –it’s a slow, heavy, and droning serenade to 25 years of loyalty.