Sound: Those not so familiar with Japanese experimental metal titans Boris might be forgiven for thinking that they always seem to have a new album on the horizon. In essence, this isn't so far from the truth; their penchant for releasing music left right and centre has already gifted us four new records in 2011. The J-pop extravaganza "New Album" was preceded by the vinyl only "Klatter" (with Merzbow), and May saw the double release of "Attention Please" and "Heavy Rocks" (2011). The latter shares name and artwork (albeit in opposing colours) with their weighty 2002 effort, regarded by many as a classic. This was a bold move certainly, with expectations set high (probably unreasonably so) from the off.
However, ten minutes into "Heavy Rocks" (2011) and it becomes obvious the album is treading a different path than that of it's orange namesake. The sound palette presented here is gloriously wide, ranging from psychedelic leads to pop-like synths, melancholic piano to fuzzed out drone. There is compositional variety on display akin to "Akuma No Uta", "Pink" or "Smile", ensuring the album avoids monotony.
"Riot Sugar" kicks things off in style, with a churning riff interspersed with Wata's delay-drenched leads and a vocal line as infatuating as anything from "New Album". After stomping their way through "GALAXIANS" and the rather forgettable "Jackson Head", Boris arrive at the first of two ten-minute-plus numbers, "Missing Pieces". Based around a simple three chord pattern and Takeshi's soulful vocal, the song twists and turns until reaching a tremendous wall of noise almost reminiscent of the latter part of "Feedbacker". "Window Shopping" boasts some great riffs, but the next (and last) true highlight comes with "Aileron", droning it's way through various melodies and leads before coming to a close with a majestic piano outro.
The real disappointment of "Heavy Rocks" (2011) comes in the form of "Czechoslovakia". Make no mistakes; it's fantastic for about a minute, until we're confronted by a crude cut and fade. It was to my annoyance to learn that the full song is only available on the vinyl edition. Why? Do Boris deem us CD listeners unworthy? At fifty-two minutes, the disc has plenty of room for the rest. On the flip-side, remove "Czechoslovakia" from the CD edition entirely and you still have over fifty minutes of music, ending with "Aileron" - a prospect I would personally be satisfied with. At best, the inclusion of this version merely seems like a cheap marketing ploy, and never fails to leave me feeling ever so slightly cheesed off. // 7
Lyrics: Aside from the odd phrase such as "Jackson Head" or "Missing Pieces", the albums lyrics are entirely sung in Japanese. For obvious reasons, this makes it hard for me to pass judgement. Takeshi's voice is strong on this release, although his approximate style does become wearing on a few occasions. Drummer Atsuo also contributes, throwing in a trademark "WOOO!" and "YEAH!" ever so often. // 7
Overall Impression: "Heavy Rocks" (2011) is archetypal Boris in the fact that it doesn't really sound like anything they've done before. Although not as cohesive as "Feedbacker" or "Flood" and definitely not as ambitious, this is an interesting, honest release which is unmistakably Boris. It stands as a worthy addition to their monolithic catalog, and also - due to it's variety and relative accessibility - presents itself as an excellent starting point for any latecomers to the Boris party. // 7