Review Summary: More riffs than you can shake a chopstick at.
In recent years, Boris have continually proven that they still have it. Never content to stick with just one sound, Boris have always added new ideas and styles into their albums, often with great success. After 2011’s so-called Year of Boris, it was clear that the band was capable of dabbling in more traditional metal with Heavy Rocks II, electronic-tinged music with New Album, and even light hearted pop with the Wata-led Attention Please. In 2013, the (mostly) Japan exclusive Praparat saw them shifting to a more typical Boris sound with hints of their 2011 albums scattered throughout. Now, in 2014, Boris have once again returned to the scene with Noise; but is it another drastic departure in style, or simply a retreading through past works?
In fact, Noise seems to be somewhere between “new” and “old”. This is the most obvious combination of styles that Boris has ever put out, not content to choose one or two genres, but instead mix together nearly everything they’ve dabbled in. Look no further than the guitar work on Noise for evidence of this. Many of the riffs, especially on Vanilla and Heavy Rain, have a slow, thunderous, plodding sound, reminding me of both classic Melvins and early Boris. The songs range from the usual fuzzed out sludge of Boris to pop songs reminiscent of the New Album, with heavier synth use than ever. On Noise, Boris have returned to the early sounds which fans have come to love (like the drone in Quicksilver), but instead of simply retracing their steps, the band has managed to add enough new style to please those familiar with newer Boris albums.
Typical Boris has often been only a few instruments present at one time, especially on albums like Feedbacker and Flood. On Noise, the instruments are densely layered, with guitar and bass working together underneath vocals, two or three tracks of lead guitar, and background synth. This creates a much more textured sound that Boris has been working towards, and on Noise it seems to have come full form. Taiyo No Baka takes a more lighthearted and basic approach with dreamy guitars, punk-inspired guitar and melancholy vocals. It’s no surprise to see Boris dabbling in other genres, but on Noise the change is more apparent, with most songs embracing several styles.
While vocal duties have always been shared by the members of the band, Takeshi has usually taken the lead and Atsuo on backing vocals. Perhaps the years have caught up to Takeshi, because Noise features clean vocals on just about every track. It’s not until Quicksilver that Atsuo unexpectedly unleashes some harsh vocals, only to have Takeshi jump back to cleans just as quickly. More input from Wata would have been welcome to Noise as well. She has proven herself an interesting vocalist on Attention Please, New Album, and in BXI, but on Noise, she is limited to a handful of lines on Heavy Rain, which manages to be a standout track.
Sadly, some songs end up as filler. For instance, Vanilla sounds a little too familiar to me, while Ghost Of Romance teases us with interesting drum work and haunting guitar, but never ends up going anywhere. Most of the album does succeed in holding your attention, like the epic Heavy Rain and furious Quicksilver. Angel is quite possibly the masterpiece of Noise, a post-rock epic calling back to Feedbacker. Perhaps the largest problem the album has is that it doesn’t feel as unique as Boris’ past works. The sound on Noise is certainly a new one, combining classic Boris sludge and new Boris style, but at the same time it can feel like a rehashing of material.
Ultimately, Noise is a great album. Sometimes it stumbles with empty tracks, and while it may display a huge amount of material, it plays it safe sometimes. Noise manages to blend the Boris recipe just right and achieves what it set out to do: it's a hugely enjoyable release from the Japanese trio, which has compressed all of their sounds from the very start. For all the moments I was left wanting more, I was also given a wild ride on a different track that made me forgive and forget the lesser moments. Possibly their strongest work since Pink, Noise finishes more like a “Greatest Hits” than a cohesive album - and I'm okay with that.