Boris, the Swiss army knife of heaviness hailing from Japan, always brings something different to the table. Could their latest conversation piece W also be a winner? Let’s investigate.
If you let us cherry-pick our Boris’ best from their extensive catalogue, Akuma no Uta (2003), Pink (2005) and Altar (2006) would rise to the surface. Hereafter the Tokyo based experimental metal outfit inexhaustibly kept exploring all corners of J-rock releasing work after work along the way. Each new Boris album therefore was a complete surprise. It made the band so elusive that they even got lost themselves. In 2015 they almost called it quits but were re-inspired by their fans and picked up their killing production pace not long after. In 2020 Boris forced themselves on our radar agian with an oldfashioned doom-stoner-hardcore record titeld No. Too bad we were already caught up by Mr. Bungle’s thrashy Easter Bunny re-recording so we didn’t give it any proper attention. Nevertheless Boris did became a band to keep an eye on again and here we are reviewing No’s follow up album W. No plus W makes NoW, yes now! So, let’s not hold you up any longer.
W is not only the band’s 27th (!) release, it also marks their first release with Sacred Bones Records. In the past months it became clear that Takeshi, Wata and Atsuo were looking to create some kind of buzz while rolling out their latest work. It’s probably why they covered Wham!’s Last Christmas in December. Luckily this very awkward rendition that shouldn’t have seen the light of day was flanked by two tracks from W. Drowning by Numbers, the album’s first tease, centers around Wata’s voice and some full echo-y feedback. The song has an elusive feel to its simple bassline and monotone percussion is not used to frame the feedback that thus constantly uses the space given to change shape. Drowning by Numbers is an interesting first listen but on the other hand also is quite dull when compared to the vigorous predecessor. Beyond Good and Evil is W’s second teaser. This slow burning rock song is about Wata’s hometown Hiroshima and the terrible things that happened there during the second world war. Wata’s singing is subdued and echoes through the grief that younger generations still feel. Boris however slashes through all sorrow and misery by blasting in a full wall of heavy shoegaze that surprisingly doesn’t change the sad undertone of the song. On forehand versatility seems the key word to describe W but let’s not rush to conclusions.
The common factor of W consists of a field of tension that is held together by a drone-like form of ambient on one side and a lingering form of sludge metal on the other side. On the first part of the album they mostly explore the restless depths without much riffs. I Want to Go to the Side Where You Can Touch… is a good example of a foreshadowing drone-based soundscape. Yet the band keeps you on your toes about what next because instead of diving deeper towards Merzbow territory things unexpectedly become a bit lighter on Icelina. Here we hear Boris execute something that could be easily categorised as dream pop. If it wasn’t for Wata’s daunting lullaby singing it would have been the oddest song on mostly drawn-out dark ambient first part of W.
The heavy gauntlet is picked up from The Fallen on which low bass, slow riffing and high snares collide. To be honest, this is what we have been waiting for and luckily there is more where that came from. Of course we’re talking about the noteworthy payoff on Beyond Good and Evil here, but let’s not forget to mention Old Projector. It’s a that song starts off even slower but hits back even harder with some fierce power chords and fragmentary drumming. All heaviness of the second part of the album is however shattered again near the ending of the album. On You Will Know (Ohayo Version) the band deconstructs all the shoegaze they have been building up to into own form of power ambient that once more is hardly tangible.
W is said to be the counterpart of No because both works were recorded amid the current pandemic. But franky that is all the common ground there is because musically No is much more straightforwardly blunt while W is full of high level experimentation. This latest Boris outing is no easy listen because the combination of noisy layerings and Wata’s hushed vocals results in a shapeless elegance that has to grow on you. It almost goes without saying that only people who are familiar with one or more of Boris’ works should give this album a fair chance. Time will tell just how high this high level release will rise but for the moment you’ll find that W is an intriguing heavy rock album that will pull you through mid-winter.
Label: Sacred Bones, 2022
Buy it here: https://borisheavyrocks.com/discography/6482/
- I Want to Go to the Side Where You Can Touch… (5:23)
- Icelina (5:18)
- Drowning by Numbers (4:15)
- Invitation (2:55)
- The Fallen (4:30)
- Beyond Good and Evil (3:51)
- Old Projector (4:38)
- You Will Know [Ohayo Version] (9:19)
- Jozan (1:25)
Atsuo – drums, tambourine, electronics
Wata – vocals, lead guitar, keyboards
Takeshi – bass guitar, rhythm guitar
Review by Wander Meulemans // 230122