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Boris

In 2006, metal and rock authorities all over Europe and North America were proclaiming that Boris' album Pink, released in November of the previous year, was a contender for album of the year. A little late to the scene, it is unclear whether they meant 2005 or 2006, but clearly the music was impressing critics. It certainly made an impression on music fans as well. The throwback to 1970's psychedelic rock isn't a particularly hard-to-find style, but with Boris, it was that and then something else entirely. The bristly feedback and fuzz recalled bands like Big Black and The Jesus and Mary Chain, and in certain points, all ambitions to rock out were foregone (or perhaps realized from another angle) in murky, Brownian, shoegazey drone. People were talking about this loud, three-piece Japanese band. They looked online to pirate their latest album, and were surprised by what they found. Japan had been keeping Boris secret from us, for ten years (well not exactly; according to Augustine they are as unknown there as they are in the Western world). This Pink was no debut album from an up-and-coming band. It was in fact their tenth studio album.

I may have been slightly misleading. Most of this description fits my own personal experience with discovering the band, as well as some people I've talked to. I'm sure there are die-hard fans who've been following the band from the start, in 1996. The other thing I may have been unclear on is their mainstream success. Don't expect to see any Boris songs on the Top 40. They've reached that odd spot in the music community in which every hipster and underground metalhead knows their name and full discography, but ask a hundred people on the street, even young people, about the Japanese band Boris and you will receive a lot of blank looks.

So Boris has been rockin' out since the mid-nineties? Yes and no. They've certainly been around since then, but not as the band you heard on Pink. They are well-known for being experimental with harsh noise, ambient, and drone, as well as hard rock. Indeed, their first album, Absolutego, contains a 65-minute track of the same name that is largely composed of guitar feedback. Yes, there is an audience for this. Yes, I am a part of that audience.

The band lineup consists of three Japanese musicians known only by a single name each: Atsuo, Wata, and Takeshi. Atsuo is the band's leader and drummer, as well as back-up vocalist, and handles most interviews since his English is presumably the strongest of the trio. His drum kit notably includes a gong. Wata is the band's lead guitarist, nearly exclusively playing a Les Paul through Orange amp stacks. Many fans are understandably entranced by the concept of an attractive Japanese woman capable of playing soft, meandering, fuzzy ballads as well as crushing drone dripping needles of noise. Takeshi covers bass and guitar both, using an Ibanez headstock-less double-necked Gibson SG-knockoff. He also handles lead vocals. For recent live shows and albums, Michio Kurihara has been present to add a bit of his guitar into the mix, but he is not an official member at this time.

One of the things Boris is known for, besides their experimenting, habitual genre-hopping, and heavy use of smoke machine, is the many collaborations they've done. Merzbow, master of noise, is a Boris favourite. In late 2006, Boris joined forces with Sunn O))), Dylan Carlson, Joe Preston, and other drone-doom notables to create Altar, a terrifying monster of an album. This became one of Boris' most popular releases, and its creation is seen as perhaps the most important event of the drone scene to date.


The Boris discography is home to hard rock, crust punk, drone doom, shoegaze, and some things that don't have names yet. (Speaking of names, the band got theirs from the surly, plodding album-opener off Melvins' Bullhead.) Those looking for a good starting point are probably very intimidated right now. Unfortunately there is no album that sums up the band. Each one represents a very different facet of their unique sound, and not many are immediately likeable if you are unfamiliar or unsympathetic to the concept of art metal. If one rubs you the wrong way, there is no telling what you'll think of the one released a year earlier, or later. That being said, most fans cannot get enough of Flood and Feedbacker.

Full-length albums:

Absolutego (1996)
Amplifier Worship (1998)
Flood (2000)
Heavy Rocks (2002)
Akuma no Uta (2003)
Boris at Last: -Feedbacker- (2003)
The Thing Which Solomon Overlooked (2004)
Dronevil (2005)
Sound Track from Film "Mabuta no Ura" (2005)
Pink (2005)
Archive (Live) (2005)
The Thing Which Solomon Overlooked 2 (2006)
The Thing Which Solomon Overlooked 3 (2006)
Vein (2006)
Smile (2008)

Collaborations:

Megatone (with Merzbow) (2002)
04092001 (with Merzbow) (2004)
Sun Baked Snow Cave (with Merzbow) (2005)
Walrus/Groon EP (with Merzbow) (2007)
Rock Dream (with Merzbow) (2007)
Black: Implication Flooding (with Keiji Haino) (1998)
Altar (with Sunn 0)))) (2006)
Rainbow (with Michio Kurihara) (2006)

Split EPs/LPs/Singles:

Boris/Barebones (1996)
Boris/Tomsk 7" (1997)
More Echoes, Touching Air Landscape (with Choukoku no Niwa) (1999)
Boris/The Dudley Corporation (2003)
Long Hair and Tights (with Doomriders) (2007)
Damaged (with Stupid Babies Go Mad) (2007)
She's So Heavy (Wata with Ai Aso) (2007)

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