Vinyl Corner : Boris ‘Amplifier Worship’

Vinyl Corner is a feature where we take a look at vinyl pressings of various albums and weigh them up to see just how good they sound, how well they’re pressed and what sort of packaging to expect – as well as giving a brief overview of the music itself. We’re looking back to one of the earliest and most definitive statements from Japanese powerhouse Boris for today’s instalment.

The Music:

It’s a regrettable truism of the Western musical zeitgeist that many listeners refuse to engage with songs sung in languages that they don’t understand. That, of course, is a great shame; such an attitude precludes innumerable examples of joyful, vital music from the world-over yet, no matter how much music nerds such as we at Vinyl Corner might protest, the simple fact of the matter is that most monolingual English speakers only want to listen to music sung in their own tongue. That predisposition has made Boris’ rise to fame in the West – and America in particular – all the more remarkable. Formed in Japan the best part of three decades ago, the trio have naturally tended to sing in their own native language across the course of much of their capacious catalogue, yet this has done little to limit their success outside of their homeland; indeed, they are – if anything – even more popular in the US than in Nippon itself. Upon reflection, their success amongst Westerners perhaps isn’t quite so odds-defying as it might first seem. A doom metal band at heart – albeit one who’ve hopped across the genre-spectrum with an abandon possessed by few of their ostensible peers – the trio’s thicker-than-thou tones and demented drones lend them a universal impact, one which transcends any potential language barriers entirely. Although 1998’s ‘Amplifier Worship’ is one of the group’s only albums to feature vocals on every song, much of its hour-plus runtime nevertheless rollicks by in a barrage of bone-shaking fuzz onslaughts and ferocious drum-led jam-outs. Anyone with an adventurous ear and a developed taste for sophisticated yet relentlessly heavy music will find much to enjoy in this truly excellent album. 

The Pressing:

Originally released exclusively on CD, it wasn’t until 2010 that ‘Amplifier Worship’ first received a vinyl pressing. That version is now long, long out of print; so it’s fortunate that Jack White’s Third Man Records have stepped in to save the day. Their new LP reissue of ‘Amplifier Worship’ comes both on coloured and black wax; we’re reviewing the latter here but those determined to acquire the former should still be able to do so for the time being. As we noted the last time we reviewed a title from the label, Third Man took the plunge to become one of the first labels of the modern era to open their own in-house pressing plant and it is therefore from that factory that this release comes. The Third Man presses have proven an immediate success, with numerous other labels hiring their services in addition to their own in-house label roster commitments. While the pressings we’ve heard from them so far have not necessarily been flawless, their output has from our experience boasted a stout level of quality control which places them on par with America’s better pressing plants. Indeed, true to that, their reissue of ‘Amplifier Worship’ is highly impressive. Spread over two LPs, the release’s noise floor is low throughout – a relief in any context, certainly, but especially in one where the sustained, juddering ambience of a drone-doom epic such as Vomitself could so easily be interrupted by unwelcome surface noise. Fortunately, though, this weighty pair of LPs has no such imperfections; we picked up on just a few rare pops across the breadth of our copy and certainly nothing that we found to be at all intrusive. Of course, as with any album this earth-rattlingly loud, its ample walls of fuzz guitar mask any slight deficiencies in the vinyl simply by nature of their booming sonics. Nevertheless, this is a rock-solid pressing which certainly confirms Third Man Records to be not only one of the more adventurous American labels of the modern era, but also one of the more admirable pressing plants of their country as well.

The Packaging:

Presented in a handsome gatefold cover, Third Man Records’ reissue of ‘Amplifer Worship’ significantly differs from the previous and now thoroughly unavailable vinyl release of the album. Where that edition suffered from ugly, cluttered artwork which did little to complement the austere and often resolutely minimalistic intensity of the music within, this new Third Man release replicates the art direction of the original 1998 Japanese CD release and is all the better for it. The artwork is strikingly attractive and the cover itself is also impressive. It is wrought from roughly mid-weight cardstock but stands out by virtue of its broad, impactful spine and clean aesthetics. The release’s barcode has been relegated to a large hype-sticker attached to the shrinkwrap, leaving the artwork itself uninterrupted. Though such a gesture may seem small to some, it demonstrates a real consideration for the preferences of the consumer from Third Man themselves. Even better are the labels, which lovingly parody the original monochrome Virgin Records label design – one which is likely to be familiar to many an ardent record collector, considering that such labels have adorned many an early ’70s art-rock classic.

Final Thoughts:

Those who appreciate the few bands audacious enough to mix art-house smarts with heavy metal gumption are likely to already have some familiarity with Boris and, regardless of whether such an individual is an ardent fan or one yet to discover the trio’s mesmeric joys, this highly impressive reissue proves a real winner. Its impactful sonics and high-quality pressing are reason enough to make acquisition of this release a priority for those with a musical taste which errs towards the lumberingly heavy, its classy presentation only further cementing this as an impressive reissue from a highly capable label.

Enjoyed this feature? We’re always looking for further albums to highlight on Vinyl Corner – and if you have a vinyl release that you’d love to see written about here, please get in touch at martin.leitch@gigsoupmusic.com – it would be great to hear from you!