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Album Review: Boris – Dear

I absolutely adore Japanese experimental metal trio Boris, but sweet mother of fuck they don’t make it easy. Between their extremely prolific nature—they’ve released 23 full-lengths over the last 25 years, plus more collaborations, splits, EPs, and live albums than I have the patience to count—and relentless genre-hopping, their discography is exhausting both to keep track of and, at times, listen to. This has been particularly true of their output since signing to Sargent House at the beginning of the decade, which could politely be described as uneven at best. Things have been trending upwards for the band lately, though, with 2014’s Noise being one of the band’s better albums since their 2005 landmark Pink. The forthcoming Dear not only continues their recent resurgence, it’s also the first truly great Boris album of the last decade.

The first sentence of the blurb that accompanies the promo is a quote from the band: “We don’t feel comfortable calling Dear a return to our slow and heavy style […] We’ve been heavy since day one.” Oddly enough, though, this might be the slowest, sludgiest record they’ve done since Amplifier Worship, but it also might be the prettiest since Flood. There’s also a consistency to it that we haven’t seen from the band in quite some time – instead of the usual stylistic mishmash that occasionally makes their albums seem more like mixtapes that cohesive statements, each of the ten tracks on Dear feel of a piece. As a result, there’s a refreshingly natural flow to the album that keeps it from feeling anywhere close to its generous 70-minute run time.

The album opens with the noisy drone of “D.O.W.N. (Domination of Waiting Noise),” which, with its monolithic pace, sets the tone for the rest of the record. With the exception of sludgy hardcore of “Absolutego,” the tempos on Dear rarely exceed a crawl, giving the band plenty of room to stretch out within the expansive arrangements. The slower pace serves the band particularly well on the longer numbers like the moody “Beyond,” which features one Wata’s best vocal performances on any Boris track, the lovely, feedback-drenched guitar pop of “Biotope,” and the album’s true standout track, the mellow, plaintive epic “Dystopia (Vanishing Point).” Some of the heavier tracks like “DEADSONG” also feature some of the first harsh vocals (presumably from drummer Atsuo) I can remember hearing on a Boris record in quite some time.

Given that Boris is now 25 years deep into their careers, it’s pretty remarkable that they still have so much great music left in their collective tanks. Dear definitely stands as a late-career highlight, and might even be among the best half-dozen or so albums they’ve ever released. From what I’ve read, it was compiled from about three albums’ worth of new material that the band worked up after last year’s Pink anniversary tour – here’s hoping the rest of those tracks eventually see release as well.

Dear will be available on July 14 via Sargent House.

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