I remember fairly vividly, my two introductions to Japanese heavy, stoner, punk, drone, noise experimentalist legends Boris: I randomly purchased Amplifier Worship on a whim, off the old All That’s Heavy webstore, via the long-gone, much missed stonerrcok.com website, I’d guess around 2000. At the time, I was just getting re-acclimated to heavy, massive-riff music, and Amplifier Worship, whilst I’ve come to love it, was WAY too much heavy/feedback for my simple, at-the-time, garage punk tastes. I gave Boris another chance, after randomly seeing the now-legendary LP Pink in a record store around 2006. After considerable hype and praise bestowed upon it on the aforementioned stonnerrock.com, I said ‘fuck it’ and bought it on a whim.
It totally blew my mind. A blazing clinic in proto-metal, punk, and drone/feedback, Pink became one of my favorite records of the early ‘00s and went on to become one of my top fifty of all time. I became a Boris devotee, which isn’t always easy. The band’s catalog is massive, challenging, and can be confusing. They’ve experimented in stoner, punk, proto-metal, noise, drone, acoustic, and J-pop, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. As well, their guitarist, Wata, is among the very best in the business when it comes to conjuring riffs and melting faces with her black Les Paul custom, and wall of Orange Amplifiers.
I’d never seen Boris live, and even though they came through Albuquerque for the first time around five years ago, I was not able to attend, and forever kicked myself, as it’s not every day these Japanese legends roll through my hometown. Well, I got another shot, as Albuquerque was the third show of their current Heavy Rocks Breakfast North American tour, and I’m not even going to pretend I know what the ‘breakfast’ thing is all about. Perhaps an opportunity for Boris to dress in leopard print pajamas for a photo shoot? They’ve always been a visual band as well as an aural one. As legend has it, Visual Kei, a Japanese movement in the ‘80s, similar to hair metal in America, had an impact on Wata, Atsuo, and Takeshi, which shows in their visual presentation, especially of late, as Atsuo has stepped out from behind the drum kit, put on the makeup, and moved into the manic, epic, frontman mode.
Wata, is among the very best in the business when it comes to conjuring riffs and melting faces with her black Les Paul custom…
So, there wasn’t any way I was missing them this time, and I was excited to see this version of Boris, the blazing, raging thrash, punk, and hardcore featured on two, of the last three releases, No, and the aforementioned Heavy Rocks (It bares mentioning that Heavy Rocks is a series of albums in Boris’ discography. The first one was 2002, the second, 22011, and now, 2022)
So, babysitter procured, I snatched tickets for myself, my wife, and my stepson, and we made our way down to Sister Bar, a killer venue right in the heart of downtown Albuquerque. Boris’ Relapse Records labelmates Nothing opened the show and are joining them on this leg of their tour. I checked the merch booth, noting what I was going to get, and hooked up with Adam DeBary, the photographer shooting the show for The Shaman, before finding a spot in front of the stage.
I’d heard of Nothing but being as I’m not the biggest shoegaze fan on the planet, I was unfamiliar with them. They played a pretty rocking set featuring a loud/quiet/melodic dynamic, that I’d describe as heavy music for dudes who love Pavement. However, they played a cool set that had the proverbial kids rocking out hard. Apparently, Nothing has a pretty big following as the front of the stage was packed throughout their performance. They were good, but I was ready for Boris.
They played a pretty rocking set featuring a loud/quiet/melodic dynamic, that I’d describe as heavy music for dudes who love Pavement…
I was amazed at how packed the show was. Over the last decade or so, my show attendance has been sparse at best, so visualizing this same show a decade ago, I cannot imagine there would be anywhere near the same amount of people in attendance. Not a bad thing, as I suppose people having better taste in music and discovering bands like this and supporting them is great for everyone.
We moved closer to the stage, and before long Wata came out and began tuning and checking her guitar and equipment. We kept thinking they were getting close to starting, but alas, their techs and roadies continued to check their tuning and equipment. Takeshi came out and checked his bass. More waiting. On this tour, Boris are featuring Crawl drummer Mike Engle, so Atsuo can embrace his frontman role in full. Engle also came out and checked his tuning. Just as we were getting anxious, and slightly impatient, suddenly, Engle, Wata, and Takeshi walked out and proceeded to drop into some heavy, riffing intro, that at least featured parts of Genesis off No.
Suddenly, the band burst into Ant-Gone, from No, and Atsuo burst onto the stage, decked out in black, glitter makeup, and his hair teased up. The band proceeded to completely blow the roof off Sister Bar from the moment they locked into Anti-Gone. The energy was amazing. There they were, it was glorious and totally nuts. All these years, I’d built them into almost fictional characters, and now, they were in front of me, completely leveling me.
The band proceeded to completely blow the roof off Sister Bar from the moment they locked into Anti-Gone…
It was an insane moment and Boris was everything I’d imagined they’d be. Crazy, heavy, manic, yet tasteful. Wata was completely crushing in her riffs, tone, and presentation, showing why she’s at the very least, continuously mentioned as being in the same universe with someone like Matt Pike. Takeshi did his triple role of singing or doing backup vocals, playing his iconic double-neck guitar and bass combo axe, and he even broke out a never-before-seen BC Rich Warlock for some shred. Engle, while not Atsuo, was awesome on the drums. Pummeling the beat, crushing the place, and adding his own rolls and fills, stamping his own personality on Boris’ sonic mayhem.
Then there was Atsuo. What to say? Even in his drummer role, he’s always had frontman energy, barking out his ‘yeah’s’ and ‘wooo’s’ from behind the kit. However, he has totally embraced this role, and completely had the crowd in his hand, beckoning them, rocking out, screaming, screeching, and owning the stage.
he [Atsuo] has totally embraced this role, and completely had the crowd in his hand…
The set list consisted solely of material from the aforementioned records, the latest Heavy Rocks 2022 and No. In addition to opener Anti-Gone, I heard Boris rip through the first single off Heavy Rocks 2022, She Is Burning, as well as My Name Is Blank, Question 1, and Loveless. During Nosferatou, the stage was drenched in fog, as Atsuo tripped the fuck out while jangling his accessory-adorned tambourine. Boris’ light show was, of course, totally on point as was their fog game, as the band tore through Non Blood Lore and HxCxHxC from No.
Atsuo went full-on and even did a stage dive into the crowd. Sensing the show was coming to a close, I nudged my wife, and we headed to the merch booth, which has been challenging at some of the post-pandemic shows I’ve attended. We stocked up on current gear, as well as a copy of Akuma No Uta on vinyl, gave Boris some invisible oranges, and waited for the inevitable encore, (not) Last song, in which, Atsuo, true to form, came out in his leopard-print, Heavy Rocks Breakfast pajamas, I shit you not. If that’s not the exclamation point, I don’t know what is. With that, we headed out into the Albuquerque night, minds blown, and asses kicked.
they [Boris] are one of the most prolific, talented, creative, and important bands in the worldwide underground over the last thirty years…
Boris are truly a unique band, both sonically, and visually, all done in a killer, tasteful aesthetic. By any measure, they are one of the most prolific, talented, creative, and important bands in the worldwide underground over the last thirty years. They deliver on all fronts, check every box, and continue to amaze. If able, and I’d strongly encourage seeing them on this tour, in this incarnation, I promise you will not be disappointed.