Japanese cult favorite sludge/doom rock trio Boris take 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 consist of guitarist Wata, bassist Takeshi, and drummer/vocalist Atsuo. 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.
Their 2006 album, Pink, put them back on Southern Lord and featured some shoegaze-influenced sounds. Rainbow appeared a year later, with Michio Kurihara from the Japanese band Ghost contributing to the soundscapes. Also in 2007, they released a limited-edition recording of a live performance with Japanese noise master Merzbow in Tokyo entitled Rock Dream. Smile, the group’s 14th album, was released in spring 2008. After extensive touring and a semi-long break, 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.