Review Summary: Dronevil is not only a metal version of the Flaming Lips' Zaireeka, but something far more transcendental, epic and esoteric and leaves the listener baffled with a feeling of just having made an aural journey. And all that without LSD!
Remember the Flaming Lips' Zaireeka? That one strange album that consisted of 4 CDs you had to play simultaneously? Do you like it? Well, Japanese avant sludge metal power trio Boris sure do. So much that they felt they needed make their own version of it. And what came out is one of their most interesting and successful experiments to date. And considering this is Boris, that really says something.
First off, let me explain a few things for better understanding. The original Dronevil came out in 2005 as a limited 2LP set with each LP containing two side-long tracks. This new 2006 reissue entitled Dronevil Final is a 2CD version of the same thing with an additional track stuffed on each disc. CD1 is called Drone and contains what its title implies. It sounds like an even more minimal version of Sunn O))) and isn't really fun to listen to without its companion CD Evil, which contains the actual music. So unlike the Lips, Boris didn't split up the arrangements, but instead the drones are meant as accompaniment for the music and give it additional depth, which is a far "user-friendlier" approach, even though I can imagine Zaireeka sounding much bigger (never actually listened to it on 4 CDs, sadly). I don't have Dronevil Final (which shall henceforth be called just "Dronevil") as a CD either. I play the Evil part on my computer through my regular speakers and the Drone part via my iPod through my bass amp, since I felt this would be kinda appropriate. But enough of that now, let's just review what's actually on this CD.
The first song, Loose/Red begins quietly, just like the Flood or Feedbacker album. Gentle, if pretty random guitar picking by (female) guitarist Wata and low bass rumbles by bass player/guitarist Takeshi (he actually plays a guitar/bass doubleneck combo) on the Evil CD, while the Drone CD offers peaceful washes of cymbals (possibly a gong?). The track takes time to build and, just like the aforementioned Flood and Feedbacker, requires patience, but the 2CD thing grants it a much more epic slant, which makes that access easier, just the same way that people respect you more if you wear fancy clothes. Or am I just being superficial? Anyway, the random picking is soon (if you call 14 minutes soon) replaced by a beautiful, somewhat gothic guitar riff. The drums come in as well here. The gong washes slooooowly fade out and give way to 6 minutes of quiet, repetitive, dark-ish jammin'.
The combined 2nd track, Giddiness Throne/Evil Wave Form (and I though only intervals were evil, now wave forms are too? Hell, what's not evil these days?) brings some Boris-style heaviness into the mix. Starting out where Loose/Red left off, it gradually builds into some serious feedback-laden heavy ***in' METAL riffage courtesy of Wata. That's usually the point where Takeshi's whiny, mellow vocal delivery should come in, again judging by Feedbacker and Flood, but surprisingly enough this is The Borises' first all-instrumental album (excluding collabs, etc.). The riffs are after some time quieted out by feedback coming from both CDs and, after another soft interlude, we get some frantic, bluesy soloing by Wata, Takeshi finally steps on his own distortion pedal, drummer Atsuo kicks out his jams as well, and you're at home. This is the same ultra-sludgy, ultra-dirty rock and ***ing roll sound found on such fine releases as Akuma No Uta or Pink (not that ***ty teeny pop singer) and it continues this way until the end of the track. Pure heavy-psych bliss.
Track 3, Interference Demon/The Evilone Which Sobs (what a combined title!) is like a mix of both tracks before it. Heavy, slow, mellow, not unreminescent of the song Blackout from the (later?) Pink, it begins with some sludgy riffing and then builds down instead of up, descending into pure drone. The sine waves (or whatever it is) coming from CD1 strangely lift it above its own monotony and turn it into some kind of cosmic aum sound or something in that it sounds perfectly peaceful and harmonic, somehow tranquilizing. After several minutes of that, beautifully picked guitar arises from CD2. The sine waves get accompanied by amp feedback yet again and all of that together provides an appropriately quiet, almost esoteric-sounding outro for this sonic journey.
After all that, Dronevil ends up being not only a heavy metal version of the Flaming Lips' Zaireeka, but something far more transcendental, epic and esoteric than any other avantgarde epic Boris have yet recorded and leaves the listener baffled with a feeling of just having made a journey to the depths of sound. And all that without LSD!