The last track on Boris’ 2020 album, NO, was titled “Interlude”. The purpose of this was to have their follow-up album, W, work as a continuation/completion of NO. Combined, the two records spell the word NOW, symbolizing the Japanese drone metal trio bringing listeners through the punishing, brutal moments of NO into the more atmospheric and tranquil moments of W.
“I Want to Go to the Side Where You Can Touch…” is W’s five-plus minute opener. Over a single, warped, droning chord, random percussion is heard as Boris’ guitarist/keyboardist, Wata, repeats the song’s title with an echo effect added almost as if to give the impression of moving through a long and winding tunnel. The track culminates in rickety guitar feedback before it’s sucked up into oblivion in the last ten seconds. “Icelina” is gentler than its predecessor. Here, Wata whispers over reverb-soaked, gently strummed guitar and tinkling keyboards as backward-sounding, deeply bassy synth effects periodically ooze through. All told, “Icelina” makes for a trippy five minutes. “Drowning by Numbers” is the most straightforward of W’s first three tracks. Over a bed of distortion, a simple two-note bass groove is punctuated by a rat-a-tat snare as Wata counts first from one to five then from six to eight in English. The song ends like a machine slowly losing power, stopping abruptly in the last second.
W’s second third begins with “Invitation”. A pounding bass drum builds tension over echoey guitars and an airy buzz. One of Wata’s male counterparts provides sexy sing-speak that translates into, “Come over here, my dear.” If there’s a moment worthy of being a single from W, it’s “The Fallen”. With its tuned down electric guitar and steady hi-hat that explodes halfway in, the song sounds unmistakably Lynchian in its influence and was perhaps inspired, at least in-part, by Julee Cruise’s “Falling”. This is by far W’s finest moment, and it’s smartly sequenced as the album’s centerpiece. “The Fallen’s” immediate successor, “Beyond Good and Evil”, drops us woozily into a nightmarish purgatory that works almost like a reprise of its predecessor until the last minute when it pummels us with a darkly demonic, face-melting, Black Sabbath-like lead guitar and a smash and crash drum exit.
The nine-plus minute “Old Projector” is oddly charming and otherworldly. As Wata sings sweetly and patiently in rhythm to Atsuo’s drumming, a guitar lead is gently plucked out. In addition to being the album’s penultimate song, “You Will Know (Ohayo Version)” is also W’s shortest. Bookended by a combined half-minute of silence on the front and back end, a distorted guitar and toms fade in and only get as loud as what one might hear leaking from a pair of earbuds left on a nightstand. The moment is odd initially, but its true purpose is revealed to be that of a primer for W’s finale, “Jozan”. It is during the record’s concluding track that Boris is at last unleashed. Up to this point, the production has been intentionally ambient and adrift. Throughout “Jozan”, however, the sound of Atsuo’s drumming is dynamic and takes no prisoners as does the spectacular crunching lead guitar work. “Jozan” provides a magnificent and raw ending that culminates in the sound of drums, guitars, and synthesizers melting down to the point of complete and total exhaustion.
W is not meant to be listened to piecemeal. This is an album designed to be experienced in its entirety in the sequence it was intended. It goes without saying that Boris’ twenty-seventh offering won’t be for everyone, but if you’re looking to lose yourself in a lush and oftentimes dark and otherworldly soundscape, W can take you where you want to go.