There is no other band in the world like Boris. That’s not a judgement of quality or a statement of complete reverence towards this Japanese power trio, just a simple fact: there is absolutely no other band in this world with the wherewithal to do what Boris has done over the course of their career. The only appropriate word to explain the sheer gravity their existence invokes in metal, the incredible amount they’ve contributed to the growth of the genre over roughly a quarter-century of being a band, is “monolithic.” It’s a weight acquired through a combination of factors: first, the number of classic albums they’ve put out (anywhere from five to ten, depending on whom you ask); second, their insane work ethic – they’ve been putting out music constantly since they first formed in 1992; and third, the way they constantly shift and play with their sound as a band, even switching genres entirely for some albums, like New Album‘s electro-pop-shoegaze or Flood‘s experimental post-rock.
This is an important triumvirate of features, because what it’s meant across their time together is that Boris have a much harder time suffering fatigue or falling into a rut than their peers in age. Recently, though, it has become to overtake them, as it does to all bands, and their output has been declining somewhat in quality. Most of their output from this decade has been passable, but not particularly great; 2015’s New Noise Literacy trilogy of albums was a low point in a career that has mostly consisted of highlights. Last year’s Gensho, a collaboration piece with prolific Japanoise god Merzbow was fine, but not particularly groundbreaking or interesting. While it’s always impossible to predict what’s next with Boris, all except the most diehard and unconditional of fans were starting to think the band had their best years far behind them.
The announcement of Dear earlier this year, accompanied by the track “Absolutego,” was a “holy shit” moment for pretty much everyone. This was slow, sludgy, mean. Boris at peak condition. Five minutes of music turned apathy-infused trepidation into a furious storm of excitement. “Memento mori” followed up soon enough, stirring further excitement into the group’s fans. This was a Boris album like we hadn’t seen since the early 2000’s with the back-to-back releases of Akuma no Uta and Boris at Last: Feedbacker: huge, slow, riff-driven tracks that blur any dividing line between sludge and drone metal.
Dear follows up perfectly on the promise the two singles delivered. It would not be a mistake to refer to this album as the band’s best since the world-shattering Pink dropped all the way back in 2005; everything is done up to a level of power and quality that goes toe-to-toe with the best material the band has to offer. Tracks like “D.O.W.N. (Domination Of Waiting Noise)” and “The Power” showcase all the radiant intensity that oozes from every lethargic riff Boris smashes their way through, drawing comparisons to the band’s own Akuma no Uta and Boris at Last: Feedbacker as well as Earth‘s Phase 3: Thrones and Dominions and Sunn O)))‘s ØØ Void. Lumbering, colossal riffs evoke a sense of primordial energy, something comparable to the stride of a brontosaurus or woolly mammoth.
At times, though, such as on “Biotope” or “Dystopia (Vanishing Point),” the more experimental veins that have characterized the Boris of the 2010’s come through to add more texture and temper the searing drone with soft, pulsing electronics and large sections of practically empty space. It’s a welcome change of pace that keeps Dear from being overly punishing, but the ratios are right enough that the dynamic adds heaviness to what is there, rather than detract with an overabundance of its own presence. Heaviness retains its weight; lightness retains its ability to provide a welcome release at the appropriate time.
To say this is Boris like never heard before would be wrong, and would be praising Dear for all the wrong reasons: this is absolutely Boris as one has heard them before, and that’s what makes Dear so great. It fuses the best qualities of the early-2000’s heavyweights within their discography with some more unconventional ideas scrapped from the band’s output of the last decade, and by bringing these together it evokes an energy that is at once refreshingly new and immediately intimate. This is the best album Boris has made in over a decade, and although it might not live up to the crown jewels of their discography, Dear has more than enough to be an amazing album in its own right.
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Boris puts out Dear today through Daymare Recordings in Japan and Sargent House Records in the rest of the world. You can stream or buy it on any major platform, as well as through NPR’s website. Go here to find where to properly preorder for your location.