Publicity photo via Bandcamp

Boris: Dear

Legendary Tokyo-based experimental trio, Boris, take a dive into their past in order to discover a new found energy and move forward.
Sargent House

In their 25-year existence, Boris has always been a prolific and daring band. Avant-rock concepts, doom riffs, heavy rock, and stoner, combined with noise and avant-garde ideas. Boris has seemingly done it all, and the albums the band put out this decade alone display this elusive form. There was a J-pop influenced record in New Album, revisiting their heavy rock/stoner moments in Heavy Rocks 2011, the alternative rock side Attention Please, diving into experimentalism in Praparat, applying dream pop and shoegaze to their doom/sludge core with Noise, revealing their allure towards post-rock and drone in the trilogy of Urban Dance, Warpath and Asia, and finally collaborating again with noise maestro Merzbow in the release of Gensho.

Before working on their new album, Dear, the band was said to be in a state of entropy. Feeling that there were no more boundaries to push, new areas to explore, Boris planned one last record to wrap up the legacy. It is still unclear whether Dear will be the final chapter, with the band feeling rejuvenated from the process. But it is tempting to think, even though the band does not like this notion, that this regained energy came from re-visiting heavier elements, with the prime focus on their doom and sludge heritage.

Dear operates at a more basic level, featuring less of the extravagant persona, and at first glance, appears to be a flatter, more direct record. The slower edge of the extreme metal spectrum features degrees of experimentation, and Boris applies these techniques, filling the space between the heavy riffs with noise and blinking artifacts, or bringing a free-form manner of progression to the surface. The majority of Dear however, still falls under the extreme, slow music side, with Boris navigating potently through its different facades.

The heavy music encompasses lyricism, as Boris combine their riffs and doom to construct moments of overwhelming grandeur. The vocal performances from the trio is the main tool through which the process moves into the emotional domain, highlighting the narrative with an epic perspective and a poetic allure. This adds more color to the record, providing moments that appear hopeful amidst the predominant guitars, or increase the darkness that comes with the pessimistic tones. This transcendental quality is explored in greater details at moments like “Beyond”, which is slightly reminiscent of the band’s collaboration with Sunn O))), and at more adventurous offering like the shoegaze induced “Biotope” carrying also a degree of Sonic Youth in its core.

But Dear does not display only an ethereal and transcendental take on doom, and it travels further, to the deepest, darkest corners of the physical realm. The pace drops down significantly, awakening an oppressive characteristic. The delicate nature of opening “D.O.W.N.” is succeeded by the sadistic “Deadsong”, where the drone elements take over and plunge this trip into darkness. In “Kagero” Boris pushes the texture of the minimal setting, resulting in sonic debris falling over the structure of the track, moving into an area not unlike the one explored by the likes of Khanate or Corrupted minus the cutthroat vocals and the piercing feedback.

Dear essentially presents a cartography of doom, and its various pathways. The otherworldly sense of ethereal notions, the melodic tendencies and epic grandeur of bands during the late ’80s, the expansion of the genre through shoegaze and alternative metal approaches and its darkest form in the drone settings, all detail Boris’ investigation in Dear, but still the band goes further. The album moves into stoner rock, presenting a more energetic manifestation in “Absolutego” and its motorized approach, as the pace quickens and the attitude tends to be more active. Similarly, Boris travels to an origin point, unearthing the early Sabbath-ian sound, and presenting it not unlike the Forest of Equilibrium-era Cathedral or the later days of Celtic Frost, in tracks like “The Power” and “Memento Mori”.

In the end, Boris did not produce one of their most adventurous releases, a record where genres cross over, pushing the boundaries and taking drastic risks. But Dear is a complete doom album in its own right, and a very intruiging one, encapsulating all the treats of the genre through compelling songwriting and powerful progression.

RATING 7 / 10