Japanese cult favorite sludge/doom rock trio Boris took their name from a song on grunge godfathers the Melvins' Bullhead album. They also have a lot in common with the Melvins musically, including a fondness for heavily downtuned guitar/bass tones and exceedingly slow tempos. But they also incorporate elements variously drawn from other sources, including psychedelic rock, punk, noise, minimalism, pure sludge-drone music à la Earth, and more. Also, despite the unpretentious psychedelic/stoner rock imagery that accompanies much of their work, there is an ambitiously experimental aspect to much of it. Their albums, for example, have tended to be massive conceptual projects: Absolutego, in its original form, was a feedback-heavy drone exploration consisting of a single 65-minute track; Flood consists of another extremely long track, 70-plus minutes in length, exploring the band's quieter sides with a minimalist/phase music slant. Also on the more experimental end of their discography are collaborations with Japanese avant-garde enigma Keiji Haino and power electronics/noise legend Merzbow.
Boris formed during the early '90s and consisted of guitarist Wata, bassist Takeshi, vocalist Atsuo, and drummer Nagata (who left the group in 1996, leaving the group as a trio with Atsuo handling both drums and vocals). They made their first recorded appearance on an obscure 1994 compilation entitled Take Care of Scabbard Fish, released only in Japan and now out of print. Absolutego, their full-length debut, came out in 1996 on the band's own Fangs Anal Satan imprint but was unavailable in the U.S. for years, a situation that was remedied when the Los Angeles-based Southern Lord label reissued the album in early 2001 along with a bonus track and new packaging. Their next album, Amplifier Worship, came out on the Mangrove label in 1998 and was also unavailable in the U.S. for several years; San Francisco's Man's Ruin had planned to reissue it in the fall of 2001, but the label folded before that could happen. A live Boris/Keiji Haino collaboration entitled Black: Implication Flooding was released by Japan's Inoxia Records, also in 1998. The following year Boris issued a split CD with fellow Japanese band Choukoko No Niwa, More Echoes, Touching Air Landscape, which also came out on Inoxia and featured Boris weighing in with a brief (for them) 28-minute contribution. Their third full-length album, Flood, was released two years later on the MIDI Creative label.
In 2002, Boris released their first of many collaborations with Merzbow, Megatone, on Inoxia. Merzbow also guested on a track on the group's Heavy Rocks album, released that same year on Quattro/UK Discs. 2003 saw the original Japanese release of Akuma No Uta on Diwphalanx, as well as Boris at Last: Feedbacker on the same label. A limited vinyl-only LP titled The Thing Which Solomon Overlooked appeared on Finnish label Kult of Nihilow in 2004. Southern Lord issued Akuma No Uta in the United States in 2005, greatly expanding their fan base. Experimental double-LP Dronevil appeared on noise label Misanthropic Agenda that year, and the group's soundtrack to the film Mabuta No Ura was released by Catune and Inoxia. Two more Merzbow collaborations, 04092001 and Sun Baked Snow Cave, also appeared in 2005. Finally, the group ended the year with the shoegaze-influenced Pink, which was given an American release on Southern Lord the following year.
Pink was tremendously well-received, garnering rave reviews, appearing on several end-of-year best-of lists, and leading to constant touring. They were as busy as ever recording and collaborating, however, working with drone-metal group Sunn O))) on the full-length Altar (released by Southern Lord). Michio Kurihara from the Japanese band Ghost contributed to the soundscapes of Rainbow. Two more volumes of the limited LP series The Thing Which Solomon Overlooked appeared, and the group released Vein on Important Records in two versions: a "hardcore" version available only in the U.S., and a "drone" version exclusively for Europe. In 2007, they released a limited-edition recording of a live performance with Japanese noise master Merzbow in Tokyo entitled Rock Dream, as well as another limited release featuring a cover of the Beatles' "I Am the Walrus." A split LP with Doomriders titled Long Hair and Tights also appeared that year, on Daymare Recordings.
Smile, the group's 14th album, was released in spring 2008, with different mixes of the recordings issued in different territories. Another collaboration with Kurihara, Cloud Chamber, appeared on Pedal Records at the end of the year. The group issued a few limited live recordings in Japan only, as well as Japanese Heavy Rock Hits (a series of individually released 7" singles), and Boris / Variations + Live in Japan, a CD of re-recorded material including a live DVD. Boris collaborated with the Cult singer Ian Astbury, releasing the EP BXI on Southern Lord in 2010. After extensive touring and a semi-long break from releasing proper full-lengths, Boris returned in 2011 with two new releases on the Sargent House imprint that, while stylistically very different from one another, were released simultaneously in April: the aptly titled Heavy Rocks and the more texturally diverse and unexpectedly accessible Attention Please. The latter featured lead guitarist Wata's vocals on all tracks. In March of 2011, Boris released another full-length (number 15!), simply titled New Album, in Japan and later in Europe. It was finally released stateside with a different track listing, first as a limited vinyl run to coincide with Black Friday on November 25, then widely on CD and vinyl on December 6. Another Merzbow collaboration, Klatter, appeared that year, and a split LP with Joe Volk appeared on Invada in 2012.
They continued their prolific run with 2013's Präparat and a live re-recording of Flood, followed by 2014's grunge-flavored offering Noise, as well as limited releases The Thing Which Solomon Overlooked Extra and Archive Volume Two: Drumless Shows. In 2015, the group simultaneously released three albums (Warpath, Asia, and Urban Dance) on Fangs Anal Satan, as part of a series titled New Noise Literacy. Boris released another album with Merzbow, Gensho, in 2016 on Relapse. The album's first disc featured drumless recordings by Boris, mostly re-recordings of earlier songs as well as a cover of My Bloody Valentine's "Sometimes." The second disc was a new recording by Merzbow, intended to be played simultaneously with Boris' disc, as the two are the same length. The Japanese issue of the album on Daymare included Gensho at Fever 11272015, a double live album of a Boris/Merzbow performance recorded in 2015.
Boris considered issuing a farewell album to celebrate its 25th anniversary, unsure if they had anything more to say musically. But during 2016's Beyond Pink Tour they were re-inspired, first by fan reactions to their music and then by one another. They re-entered the studio to see if the experience and energy would translate to new music -- the trio cut three albums' worth of new material before culling the sessions down to ten tracks for the album Dear, released during the summer of 2017. ~ William York
- Tokyo, Japan