Reviewed by James Slone
Japan’s ultimate power trio Boris have been blasting out heavy rockers, sludgy drone doom and psychedelic hardcore for nearly two decades now, entering a highly productive and musically diverse phase with 2011’s New Album. This era saw the band draw on J-pop, shoegaze and electronic elements to both broaden their appeal and deepen their tool box. This process, carried out in fits and starts, has brought us to what is arguably the band’s finest moment, Noise, an album as colorful and deliriously multifaceted as it is pulverizing.
The album’s opener “Melody” kicks things off with beautiful swirling feedback before plowing into a charging song that combines Boris’s classic noise metal sound with a groove that wouldn’t feel out of place on a Swervedriver album. Fast on its heels is “Vanilla,” an up-tempo rocker with a hard-and-heavy breakdown that is gradually enveloped in a wall of rich noisiness. The third track “Ghost of Romance” eases down the energy level with a slow crawl of lightly drifting melancholy before “Heavy Rain” imposes itself with a thunderously heavy doom sound, softened slightly by guitarist/vocalist Wata’s plaintive singing. Not content to let the listener wallow in solitude, the fifth song “Taiyo no Baka” presents a jangly pop song with an infectiously catchy chorus suspended in a dreamy gossamer haze.
Next up is the album’s central epic, “Angel,” a mellow and slow rock song that turns into this year’s most epic and layered doom metal dirge. The song both drifts and uplifts with almost tectonic deliberateness, with faster tempos and reassuring melodies breaking up the murky clouds of funeral feedback that dominates the rest of the song, one that gradually disintegrates into some of the most beautiful grassland psychedelia this side of the Boredoms. The band follows this beautiful giant with the speedy, melodic and updated d-beat crust punk of “Quicksilver”, an injection of pure energy that thrashes about before terminating in swampy sludge. The final song is “Siesta,” a quiet lullaby that closes the album with a sleepy sendoff that leaves the listener in a contemplative, and sedated, headspace.
The Boris that emerges on Noise is a more melodic and thoughtful band. Gone are the frenetic three-minute noise bursts and repetitive drones. Instead we’re treated to highly structured, multi-part songs free of the experimental gimmicks that the band has sometimes relied on in the past. Most of the vocals are sung, and while the singing is not always especially tuneful, it is genuinely emotive, tending toward the gentle, sad or pleasantly upbeat, even when the surrounding sounds are crushingly heavy (the one exception being the metalcore shrieks of “Quicksilver”).
Despite these concessions to melody and structure, the album is appropriately named because every song takes advantage of the band’s expertise in managing distortion and feedback, reveling in the sometimes profound beauty that can be generated through pedals and stacks. This album flows, swells and crashes around the listener with an ocean of gorgeously lush sounds, but never loses the hook, the beat or the joy of a band firing on all cylinders. And don’t let the kitten on the cover fool you, this is rock/metal music played at a very high level.
Originally published by Avant-garde Metal.