Japanese sludge/doom rock trio Boris are cult favorites who took their name from a song on grunge godfathers the Melvins' Bullhead album. They had much 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: psychedelic rock, punk, noise, minimalism, pure sludge-drone music, and more. There is also an ambitiously experimental aspect to much of the band's work; their albums tend toward massive conceptual projects: 2001's Absolutego was a feedback-heavy drone exploration consisting of a single 65-minute track; 2005's Flood consists of a single 70-plus-minute track that explored the band's quieter side with a minimalist/phase music slant. 2006's Altar was a drone/feedback collaboration with Sunn O))). There are other collaborative recordings in their discography, including 2008's Cloud Chamber with Japanese psych guitar enigma Michio Kurihara, and several others with power electronics/noise legend Merzbow, including 2013's Gensho. 2017's Dear wove together doom metal, noise, and overdriven shoegaze sounds, while 2020 saw a pair of releases including No and If You/En Attendant Godot, a 33-minute single track collaboration with noise experimentalists Z.O.A.
Boris formed during the early '90s and consisted of guitarist Wata, bassist Takeshi, vocalist Atsuo, and drummer Nagata (who departed the group in 1996, leaving them a trio with Atsuo handling both drums and vocals). They made their first recorded appearance on an obscure 1994 compilation titled Take Care of Scabbard Fish, released only in Japan. Absolutego, their full-length debut, was released in 1996 on the band's own Fangs Anal Satan label; it was unavailable in the U.S. for years, a situation remedied when the Los Angeles-based Southern Lord label reissued the album in early 2001, adding a bonus track and new packaging. Their next album, Amplifier Worship, was put out by the Mangrove label in 1998, as was a live Boris/Keiji Haino collaboration titled Black: Implication Flooding on Japan's Inoxia Records. The following year, Boris issued More Echoes, Touching Air Landscape on Inoxia, a split-disc collaboration with fellow Japanese band Choukoko No Niwa. Their globally acclaimed third full-length, Flood, was released two years later on the MIDI Creative label.
In 2002, Boris released Megatone their first of many recorded collaborations with Masami Akita (aka Merzbow), on Inoxia. He also guested on a track on the group's Heavy Rocks album, released that year by 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 to become one of their most sought-after releases. A year later, Southern Lord stepped in to reissue Akuma No Uta in the United States. 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 jointly by Catune and Inoxia. Two more Merzbow collaborations, 04092001 and Sun Baked Snow Cave, also appeared in 2005. The group ended the year with the shoegaze-influenced Pink, which was given an American release on Southern Lord the following year. A conscious attempt at (relative) accessibility, Pink garnered rave reviews from the alternative and mainstream rock presses, leading to constant touring in bigger venues for Boris. They collaborated with drone-metal group Sunn O))) on the full-length Altar, and with guitarist Michio Kurihara (from legendary Japanese psych mavens Ghost) on 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 distinct iterations: a "hardcore" version available only in the U.S. and a "drone" version exclusively in Europe. In 2007, they released a limited-edition recording of a live performance with Merzbow in Tokyo titled Rock Dream, as well as a limited release featuring a cover of the Beatles' "I Am the Walrus." A split-LP with Doomriders entitled 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 issued in different territories. Cloud Chamber, a second collaboration with Kurihara, appeared on Pedal Records at the end of the year.
Boris issued several limited live recordings in Japan, as well as Japanese Heavy Rock Hits (a series of individually released 7" singles), and Boris/Variations + Live in Japan, a collection of re-recorded material including a live DVD. They collaborated with Cult singer Ian Astbury, releasing the EP BXI on Southern Lord in 2010. After extensive touring and an uncharacteristically long break from recording, Boris returned in 2011 with two very distinctly different (from one another) outings on Sargent House: 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 the tracks. In March of 2011, Boris released another full-length (it went to number 15), New Album, in Japan and later in Europe. It was finally released stateside with a different track listing. Another Merzbow collaboration, Klatter, appeared that year, while a split-LP with Joe Volk was issued by Invada in 2012.
They continued their prolific run with 2013's Pr?parat and a live re-recording of Flood, followed by 2014's grunge-flavored offering Noise and the 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. In 2016, Boris released Gensho, another collaboration with Merzbow, on Relapse. The album's first disc featured drumless recordings by Boris, mostly re-recordings of earlier songs, and a cover of My Bloody Valentine's "Sometimes." The second disc offered a new recording by Merzbow, intended to be played simultaneously with the Boris disc: the two were the same length. The Japanese release of the album on Daymare included Gensho at Fever 11272015, a double-live document of a Boris/Merzbow performance from 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 subsequently cut a whopping three albums' worth of material before culling the sessions to ten tracks for 2017's single-disc album Dear. They also issued Live at Third Man, which documented the tour.
In 2019, after celebrating their 25th anniversary in October, Boris teamed with Jack White's Third Man Records to reissue Feedbacker and Akuma No Uta. In addition, they released a double-length album of two separate -- and current -- works entitled L?VE & EV?L. They returned in 2020 with NO, an 11-cut, extremely noisy hard rock album; they also collaborated with Japanese noise experimentalists Z.O.A. on their 33-minute "single" If You/En Attendant Godot, comprising one long track, and re-teamed with Merzbow for the December release of 2RI2P0. ~ William York & Thom Jurek