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Boris Heavy Rocks 2022


Album Review: BORIS Heavy Rocks (2022)

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Heavy Rocks (2022) is the third in the series of Boris' Heavy Rocks records which attempts to go yard on arcane '70s rock and proto-metal screwballs with a pine tar-lined avant-garde/experimental clobbering apparatus. On a good day, the line Boris have drawn between the past and present over the course of 28 (jeesus frickin' christos!) albums and countless EPs/live albums/splits/whatnot is more like a helix that turns, curves, winds its way around regularity, appearing and disappearing above a rock, punk and metal horizon. Under the world's largest umbrella, bassist/guitarist Takeshi, guitarist Wata and drummer/vocalist Atsuo might be considered a stoner rock band. Wikipedia opts out to refer to them as an "experimental music band" while the normally persnickety gatekeepers over at Metal Archives just have their genre listed as "various." Can't deny any of the above and the newest Heavy Rocks adds more fuel to those and any classification anyone could come up with but, as per the title and intent of the series, does so with heaviness in mind. Understand, however, that Boris' ever-evolving idea of "heavy" probably doesn't lock in with what would normally come to the mind of most people stopping by a website called Metal Injection.

Despite the sonic warmth that comes with walls of vintage amplification, (presumably) recording to tape and a sparkling drum set that sounds like it's been cryonically preserved since it fell off the back of the equipment truck during the second leg of Black Sabbath's Master of Reality tour, there's an underlying air of the bizarre that drives this beyond just being a decent loud rock record with the 1960's and '70s in its crosshairs. 

Lead-off banger "She is Burning" is rife with bare-chested rock tropes like guitars fuzzier than King Buzzo's 'fro, trills played like they're going out of style, farted up two-beats, sloppy Hendrix-like melody delivery and more string bending than the last string bender. All that gets piled on to by simulated horns, layers upon layer of vocal track interjections (with lines just off enough to be noticeable, but still work) and John Zorn-like sax bleating. The riff might sound familiar, but as it's augmented by all these extraneous sounds, noises and effects it gives the tucked-in-overpriced-classic-rock-concert-shirt blandness an air of intemperate chaos. On that same tip are "Question 1" and "Ruins," the former gussies up a thrashy D-beat canter with walking bass lines and surround sound vocals before surrendering to 2001: A Space Odyssey vastness rooted in spacious drum pounding and callithumpian axe-slinging, while the latter is about as straight ahead on the rocking hardcore tip as Boris may have ever been.

"Cramper" is like someone introduced the Blues Brothers to a combination of the Melvins and hentai audio outtakes. Lots of vocalized "Woo!"s and Wolfman Jack howls are featured alongside what we think are lyrics about someone "really rocking" to inject this one with a shit-ton of visceral energy and playfulness whereas "My Name is Blank" exploits Wata's downpicking veracity alongside what appear to be tape loops and acid-bath chanting.

The experimental edge rears more of its head in tracks like the bass driven "Blah Blah Blah" and its juxtaposition of free-jazz, noise rock and seemingly random slashes of effects, reed-raping sax and junkyard percussion with a chorus that sounds like Pat Benatar punching her way through senior year auto shop. And "Ghostly Imagination" rocks like Motörhead-meets-Rush, but with what sounds like digital hardcore hero Alec Empire manning the drum machine. Those two work. Other, more avant-garde excursions, like "Nosferatu" are more the sound of the band losing the plot and making a racket for the sake of making a racket and calling it high-brow art in low-brow presentation. And the tuneless vocal moan reminiscent of a strangled "Love Hurts" over top Nine Inch Nails piano sparseness comprising "(not) Last Song" is actually an a terrible exit statement, but thankfully it's not a finite moment. After a couple hundred releases, it's pretty much a guarantee that this isn't the end of this boundary pushing band and hopefully not the end of the Heavy Rocks series.

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