Boris is a prolific band. Since their original drummer left in 1996 the Japanese based act have never had a lineup change and have released close to thirty studio albums, fourteen collaboration albums as well as various live recordings and EPs. If that is not a terrific amount of output then I don’t know what is. I will be honest and say I have only listened to a handful of them, the main ones everyone knows: Pink, Noise, Love & Evol, Heavy Rocks, their collab with Sun O))) also a couple of the Merzbow collabs, and potentially others that I have forgotten about. Although I can’t possibly claim to be an expert on their style without fully diving into every album of theirs, one thing I can say from my own experience is that Boris might be one of the most diverse bands releasing heavy music right now. Boris themselves have stated that they do not consider themselves a heavy metal band and although almost all of what they do has a heavy element to it I would consider them to be an experimental band more than anything else.
From the albums I have listened to I have heard the band move through the styles of stoner rock, drone, desert rock, sludge, shoegaze, noise, heavy metal, the pop-style rock of New Album and so many things in between. With that said No has to be one of the dirtiest albums they have ever released. Even when looking at the album in isolation, it moves through quite a few styles, the music drawing influences from doom, hardcore, punk, black metal and again shoegaze and sludge. The guitar tones on this album are downright disgusting and the periodic screaming gut wrenching, even the album title drips with rebellious teen angst (NO!). I am going to say up front that I love this album, it is balls to the wall yet still has that psychedelic edge that is the defining factor that Boris carries across all their albums.
The record begins with a riff so dirty I can smell it; it is slow yet punctuated with harmonic leads that hint at something menacing to come. The energy begins to pick up and an Electric Wizard style riff emerges through the waves of distortion and reverb. This song is fantastic, such a great opener, dripping with atmosphere: ritualistic, dense, cosmic and tinged with fear. The song is essentially one long intro track without any vocals building neatly into the chaos that is to follow. This album is like a spell, the first track merely the preparation to the process.
The following tracks have palpable hardcore and punk vibes; the drums manically beat away while guitar plays classic punk-style, riffed power chords. Nothing too unique about the songs themselves but they are perfectly executed and have catchy vocal parts and melodic guitar hooks. These songs are a great addition to the tapestry of genres that Boris weaves into this record. I can also see “Anti-Gone” and “Non Blood Lore” as being the perfect live moshing songs, just listening to them opens up the pit in my head.
Temple of Hatred is a particularly strange track. Although initially, still in the hardcore punk vein of the previous few it quickly evolves into what I can only describe as black metal before the vocals break out in some inaudible chant. These sections are around for only a brief moment before the punk sentimentality returns. The song is quite short, clocking in at barely two minutes. I won’t say I dislike the track but it is quite odd, which probably means I like it.
Track five “Zerkalo” shifts gear slightly. Listening to this piece is like wading through rivers of molasses. The music weighs your limbs down and simulates a particularly bad fit of sleep paralysis. I lie with my eyes wide open staring at the figure at the end of my bed. The worst part is the expression on its face. This might be my favourite one of the album. Before long the punk returns but with a far more shimmering, post-rock/shoegaze quality. “HxCxHxC – Perforation Line” is oddly the least hardcore song of the album. It is psychedelic, uplifting but also slightly sad.
From this point on the album varies between punk, hardcore, sludge and doom sounds throughout, though the tempo remains on the faster side. The only exception is the final track which is a strange ambient fare that ends the album on a trippy, spacious note. Though tracks in isolation do not present the album as experimental the overall through-line and flow is not obvious, giving it that experimental edge. The record is quite a journey to say the least. This album is aggressive, exciting, and empowering and I think is a must listen for anyone. Boris are a band that just keep on surprising and without a doubt will go down in history of one of the most interesting bands to come out of the stoner/doom movement even if they don’t consider themselves a metal band.
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You can grab a digital copy of NO over on the Boris Bandcamp page. It is not currently available on Spotify, at least not in my region. I also do not seem to be able to find any physical copies available right now, possibly due to the current pandemic, but follow the band on their socials and on Bandcamp and hopefully something becomes available soon.