The simple idea that Heavy Rocks is so true and so potent that Japanese legends BORIS (and this is the all caps version) have now got THREE records with that title. The original 2002 edition was a landmark of stoner rock, the 2011 sophomore felt like an answer to the poppier ‘New Album’ that saw release in the same year, so with BORIS starting to reach the 30th year of their existence, the return of Heavy Rocks feels like it could be a definitive statement on what the band is. It is out now through Relapse Records.
She Is Burning is a blazing opener, frantic punkish energy spiralling from fuzzed out guitar tone and capturing the band’s RAWK credentials immediately. Flaming leads cascade from everywhere, while the drum battery of Atsuo is as impressive as ever, underpinning every psyche freakout and excursion into experimentalism. Cramper kicks off with a stoner rock approach, before slowly beginning to unravel into one of said psych freakouts, before the absolute beast of My Name Is Blank kicks that concept out of the window with the best straightforward BORIS track since Statement. But for those of us who like the lower caps version never fear, boris are always hiding in here somewhere.
Blah Blah Blah shreds your ear with some feedback before Takeshi‘s bass powers this track along into some truly memorable territory, as wailing guitar leads stretch out into cosmic jams and jazzy sax breaks puncture the firm anchor of bass. The spacey vocal melodies haunt this track, and I had to go back a number of times just to sate that appetite. Question 1 feels a bit like a crust punk track that suddenly opens up into a vast vista of squalling guitar and ambient soundscapes. This is boris at their best; taking something that feels visceral and heavy and making it so huge and ethereal at the same time. When it comes crashing back down to Earth, it feels like a revelation from God.
a band who still sound as vital today as they did 30 years ago…
The proper old school drone doom Nosferatou feels like the crushing weight of existence coming down on all of us, and we get some classic Melvins worship in there as well, confirming, to me at least, that the band are really establishing their legacy here. Ghostly Imagination might be the most brutal traditional song the band have ever written, melding the chugging, sludgy riffs with an industrial layer and some properly savage vocals, while closer (not) Last Song is an introspective masterpiece, where gloomy piano and a lonely vocal dissolve in and out of squalling feedback interludes. It certainly feels laced with finality, as it abruptly cuts out to close.
I could write for eons about how important this band have been for me personally, and the journeys they’ve taken me on, but the simplest action is to just listen. Listen to a band who still sound as vital today as they did 30 years ago. A band whose exploration and experimentation with sound has proven to be so influential and like no other. When you’ve gone and done all that, you can write as many albums with the same name as you want. Heavy Rocks 2022 is a pure expression of Boris; Wata coaxing ribbons of exhilarating guitar melodies from the ether, Atsuo smashing that drumkit like a man possessed, and the propulsive, impulsive bass of Takeshi. There’s nobody like them, and there never will be.
Scribed by: Sandy Williamson