Japanese avant-doom legends Boris once released a record called ‘Amplifier Worship’. Although that album was made the best part of 20 years ago, the concept of the amplifier as an object of worship seems to be just as important to the trio now as it ever was. ‘Dear’ is, in part, a celebration of the group’s 25 year existence and it’s immediately clear that the two and a half decades the band have been working have not dulled their fascination with volume.
It’s telling that in ‘Dear’s press release, ‘Absolutego’ is pointed to the as the recommended song for radio play; few other bands would say a song so frantically heavy and brutishly urgent would constitute a single, but the track does indeed stand as one of the most accessible moments on the album. Although the piece shares its name with the group’s 1996 debut album – a monolithic 1 hour drone epic – the new song is far pithier at just over five minutes, an initially truculent rhythm part soon giving way to crashing, slo-mo power chords and gut-rumbling bass in the sort of unexpected left-turn that’s characterised the band for so long.
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Indeed, a huge part of what’s always made Boris such an important group is their refusal to stagnate or re-tread old ground. Whilst ‘Dear’ isn’t wholly unlike previous works, it certainly has new ideas to offer. The album’s duality between crushing heaviness and surprisingly tender moments of weightless melody constitutes its most quietly striking characteristic. The penultimate track and sonic centrepiece ‘Distopia -Vanishing Point-‘ starts off gently with subtly phased guitar echoing in and out of earshot and vocals softly crooned rather than harshly yelled – such moments are affecting in and of themselves but they also play a pivotal role in the album as a whole. Boris have always been known primarily as a heavy band and it’s the moments of quiet and reflection on ‘Dear’ that give the album’s most crushing portions all the more impact and gravity. After the aching inflections of ‘Distopia’s opening minutes die out and the band kick into overdrive, the exultant intensity of the guitar solo is made all the more apparent by the moments of calm and reflection that precede it.
Ultimately, it’s Boris’ long-held experimental streak that elevates them above many of their more straitlaced peers. While the trio aren’t afraid of going out-and-out doom metal at points – note the lumbering onslaught of leviathan riffs and slack-stringed heaviness that is ‘The Power’ – it’s in ‘Dear’s more abstract moments where the heart and soul of the group lie. Standout track ‘Biotope’ throws a snakingly eerie, desolate ambience into the mix, coupling one of the most overtly melodic hooks on the album with a backing that continuously threatens to explode in to heaviness but never quite makes the leap, leaving an affectingly unsettling atmosphere of uncertainty in its wake.
Although vocals frequently stray into harder territory, often they act as a melodic counterpoint to the thickly-layered weight of the distortion-drench guitars. The seven minute ‘Beyond’ may start off in relatively subdued form but even when the fuzz pedals are stamped on and the amps thrown into life, the vocals remain clear-headed and bright – a vivid contrast to the abrasion of the music that backs them. It’s a powerful duality and one that casts Boris as a metal band with more depth and maturity than many of their more cut-and-dried peers.
‘Dear’ is another fresh, powerful work from Boris. Twenty five years on from their inception, they’re as vital and wildly idiosyncratic now as they’ve ever been and remain an uncompromising and ambiguous entity; take the time to unravel the mystery that Boris put forth with ‘Dear’ and you’ll be richly rewarded.
‘Dear’ is out now. The full track-listing is as follows…
1. D.O.W.N. (Domination Of Waiting Noise)
7. The Power
8. Memento Mori
9. Distopia Vanishing Point