Review Summary: Stones of weight [3]

Earlier this year, Boris dropped a grab bag of somnambulant throwaways entitled W and no-one was quite sure what to make of it. It’s settled as a curio in a discography peppered with loose odds and ends, orbited by a recurring set of Difficult Questions: who are Boris (Japanese power trio), who have Boris been (any music performable with an electric guitar, and then some), and who are Boris now (Heavy Rocks, baby).

For newcomers or those looking for a further re-introduction, uh, okay! Everyone else, skip to paragraph #3. Boris made their name with a panchromatic spread of drone, sludge and stoner metals in the ‘00s, almost all of which should be considered essential to anyone halfway serious about dynamics, guitar tones and/or attention spans. Their body of work is famously mazelike: not only do they have an inordinate amount of LPs and collaborations, the exact order of priority for which varies wildly according to whom you ask, but many of these come in a slew of format- or region- specific versions with contrasting mixes, tracklists or even arrangements of individual songs. It’s a joy to dig into, but the entry barrier is obvious: even if you reduce it to a cheat sheet, the ins and outs are overwhelming (get your Pink from the vinyl version, your Dronevil from a dual-mix of the final rerelease, your New Album with “Luna” as an unofficial bonus track, avoid the U.S. edition of Smile like the plague etcetc.). It’s a rough gig recommending bands that come with a hundred-page consumer’s manual, even if they are every inch worth it.

Fortunately, we can leave all that baggage at the door for Heavy Rocks (2022), the gang’s latest. This record is easily solid enough both to stand as a recent career landmark and to offer a viable entry point even to the most inexperienced listeners (a stark contrast with W). Though an apparent successor to the series established by the legendary Heavy Rocks (2002) and rebooted with the pick-n-mix Heavy Rocks (2011), it shares no material with either of these and demands zero wider familiarity. No need to overthink: all three rock, all three are heavy.

As per the leopard-print raiment of its artwork, Heavy Rocks (2022)’s particular brand of heavy rockiness is flash, camp, periodically silly and situationally perfect. It’s arguably the grittiest in the series, all sawdust and snarl in a way that recalls NO (2020)’s hard-eyed stare and backs it up with a ghoulish rictus. Many of these tracks veer off into chaos and merriment (opener “She is burning” is the barnstormer to beat this year), but the coarse edge here feels like a greater constant than such adrenaline highs. It’s there in the decidedly throaty vocal performances, the fiery exchange of guitar leads, and the frankly irresponsible degree to which the mix privileges the trio’s amp cabinet. This Heavy Rocks plays like sandpaper.

Boris fare surprisingly well when it affords this energy a more abstract space to flex: “blah blah blah” and “Nosferatou” are both superbly placed haymakers that drop the tempo through the floor and usher in guest saxophone to go full banshee on their respective foundations of noise rock and doom. There’s a volatility to individual song structures here, and the liberties the band take in dynamiting hooky rockers such as “Cramper” and “Question 1” the moment they’ve established a verse/chorus motion is the stuff shit-eating grins are made of. Add to that the band’s rawest production since Smile (the superior edition, if you’ve been following), and you’ve got a live wire appeal whose thrills largely vindicate its spills. Hunky dory.

Take that largely with a pinch of salt. Heavy Rocks (2022)’s momentum is enough to sweep rough edges under the carpet, as per the mix and the decision to fade out on the otherwise excellent “My name is blank” just as it hits its peak, but there are a couple of stern questions marks to be levelled here. Unfortunately, they uniformly fall towards the record’s tailend: “Ghostly Imagination”’s foray into digital hardcore is at best a spirited misfire, whereas the distantly experimental bunk of a closer “(not) Last Song” is a straightforward drag, all languorous sustained piano without a nugget of substance in sight. It’s a shame; Heavy Rocks (2022) toes the line between an outright knockout and a patchy late career highlight, but the latter side has the edge if a firm call is to be made. There’s greatness all over this thing, and the way in which Boris stop just short of seeing the whole thing off in style can’t help but scan as unnecessary and frustrating. Did Heavy Rocks (2022) need to be a triumph for rambunctious heavy rocking glory at the minor but palpable expense of quality control? Bah. Shou ga nai; Boris is Boris. See you around for Heavy Rocks (2031).




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Comments:Add a Comment 
Pikazilla
August 17th 2022


30504 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

omg it's finally here



this is the most high-energy Boris sounded in a while, me likey mucho

Meridiu5
August 18th 2022


4171 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

nice review



The full brass sections are perfection

Pikazilla
August 18th 2022


30504 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

W > Attention Please



I disagree.



this >>> Heavy Rocks 2011



I agree.

Pikazilla
August 18th 2022


30504 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Smile, Praparat, and W are bottom 3 Boris, assuming we don't count the bazillion ambient albums they did.

Pikazilla
August 18th 2022


30504 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

But Attention Please isn't far from those three either.

Pikazilla
August 18th 2022


30504 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

that can't be true because their best song is flood

Pikazilla
August 18th 2022


30504 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

flood is one song split into 4 parts and why doesn't it count

Pikazilla
August 18th 2022


30504 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I am very upset now

Pikazilla
August 18th 2022


30504 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I like my songs how I like my women



No compromise will be made





FadedSun
August 18th 2022


3196 Comments


Bruh, W was awesome. You're sleeping on that album for some reason. I should read the rest of the review now :P

FadedSun
August 18th 2022


3196 Comments


I disagree. I found a lot to enjoy. Anyway, what I love about this album is the SAX.

Uzumaki
August 18th 2022


4589 Comments


Can’t create lists, can’t edit. WTF.

ChaoticVortex
August 18th 2022


1616 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

30+ years and Boris is still making absolute bangers. That's inspiring. Great review.

foreverendeared
August 18th 2022


14720 Comments


Boris never bore-us

for real tho the output is incredible

insomniac15
Staff Reviewer
August 18th 2022


6213 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Those digital drums on Ghostly Imagination are so silly, I love them. Great album, but should've ended with a manic tune not the piano dirge.

kkarron
August 18th 2022


1437 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Sigh, I hate that I can't get into this. Feels too by-the-numbers to me. NO remains my pick for COVID era Boris.

Tunaboy45
August 18th 2022


18472 Comments


the W defender has logged on

Jasdevi087
August 18th 2022


8149 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

goes hard

SomeCallMeTim
August 18th 2022


4363 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

the rocks keep getting heavier



gonna have to check this before I see them in sept

neekafat
Staff Reviewer
August 18th 2022


26435 Comments


heavy sox



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