Being a fan of Boris is never boring. Japan’s experimental metal trickster gods release albums at a rate of one to three per year and switch genres the way some guitarists switch between effects pedals.
Lately, it’s seemed as though it’s not a question of whether Atsuo, Wata and Takeshi are trolling us, only how are they trolling us this time? They spent their first decade honing a unique style of hellbent, psychedelic metal. After that, they really started to go off the rails. Their 2011 experiments with poppy, melodic rock New Album, Attention Please and the harder, glammy Heavy Rocks were enjoyable, but left longtime listeners scratching their heads. They continued that thought to less bizarre effect with the ethereal post-metal of 2014’s Noise. In 2015, they released three volumes of mostly ambient noise. We all put up with this kind of thing because they are one of the best bands in the world, and their sense of humor is pretty good too.
Their latest album Dear marks 25 years of these three feedback fiends melting minds, subverting expectations and generally doing whatever they want. This time they have seen fit to share with us about hour and a half worth of protracted drone metal, inexorable as creeping insanity. It’s psychedelic in a chthonic way and sounds as though it was recorded live in an underground cavern. It’s easily their most minimalist recording, a carefully monochrome study in sludgy drones. There are some blissfully meditative moments: A few songs, like “Beyond,” could be collaborations with Phil Elverum (Mt. Eerie), but, unfortunately, less doesn’t seem to be more where Boris is concerned.
There’s some notable cussedness, maybe even a roguish smile, in the just slightly grating “Kagero,” which consists of a brief five and a half minutes of beefy low-end feedback punctuated by falsetto vocals and not quite rhythmic drum and cymbal crashes. Still, things don’t even really get strange until halfway into the 12-minute “Dystopia Vanishing Point,” Dear’s penultimate track. An epic but rather traditional guitar solo erupts like a fireworks display in the desert at about the seven minute mark and continues to the end of the song, perhaps serving as the album’s punchline.
If you are a lover of Boris’s slow and low tendency, it’s tempting to think of this as a return to their very early days, even to imagine that they might re-explore this territory. It would be unwise to get comfortable with the idea. They’re probably just messing with us again.