Japanese metal/noise/doom/shoegaze genre-transcenders, Boris, blew minds and rattled floorboards Saturday night at Gainesville’s reputable High Dive venue. The show was part of their latest US tour, which will partially serve as promotion for their new album, “LOVE & EVOL,” to be released on Oct 4. As an added perk for show attendees, the newest album will be available exclusively on this tour before the scheduled release date, along with some previously discontinued re-releases. More on that in another post.
I should say before I dive into a review of the show that I’ve recently become a huge fan of Boris in the past 6 months. Not being a hugest follower of the metal genre, I found myself drawn to them after sitting down to listen to the entirety of their 2005 opus, PINK. What really does it for me in a band like Boris is the wide variety on display in their sound. Some albums lean heavily on their sludge metal roots (2003’s Akuma No Ulta), some explore more drone territory (98’s Amplifier Worship), while others explore the quieter range of their experimental songwriting (2007’s collab piece Rainbow), as well as a recent probings into shoegaze (2011’s Attention Please) and grunge (2014’s Noise). Then there’s PINK, which properly introduces any first-time listeners to an incredible album that showcases that wide breadth through some of the bands’ best captured performances and songwriting.
So, needless to say, I was thoroughly ecstatic to see that they were going to be touring this year.
Preceded by an abundance of fog as they made their way onto the stage, both guitarists/bassist/vocalists Takeshi and Wata strapped on their guitars with a subdued grace while drummer/vocalist Atsuo (face painted white with black lipstick, black eyeshadow) welcomed the crowd, throwing the devil-horned rock hand symbol up in the air, encouraging the audience to do the same. As he continued to entice the crowd, the roar of Takeshi and Wata’s amps began to drown the room in a cacophony of HEAVY tone.
Beginning with a long drone, complete with hits to the massive gong behind Atsuo’s kit, Boris wowed the audience, preparing them for a nuanced journey into the massive power of their sound. All together their set was perfectly varied. One song would display the band’s core drone, while the next glides into shoegaze, then followed by fast-paced sludge metal, only to then maneuver into a slow, quiet ballad, and finally coming full-circle with another full-bodied drone.
For a band with as wide a genre range as Boris, it’s necessary at this point. With such a wide and varied catalogue, it would be impossible to cover even just one “best of” style in less than 2 hours. By the end of the set, the audience was fiercely chanting for more. The band came back to grace the stage for one last song: PINK’s crowning shoegaze epic, “Farewell,” to close out the show. And what a massive close out it was. Easily one of the band’s most recognizable tunes, the chugging drones perfectly balance the beauty of the song’s melancholic tonality, simultaneously grounding the audience in a hypnotic drone, while taking them to soaring, mind-altering heights through its blissful melody. I must have listened to recordings of this song in particular easily 100 times. None ever as experientially satisfying as being there in the flesh to experience the limitless potential of its gargantuan tonescape.
It’s hard to describe the experience of being at this Boris show. For one thing it was LOUD. Like EARTHSHATTERING loud. The ground was literally rumbling under my feet. And it was nearly relentless. But this was nothing like the typical, heavy metal/hard rock shows I’ve experienced. This wasn’t showy, or as high energy. Instead it was more akin to something between the methodical musicianship of a classical music concert and the nuanced improvisation of a well-rehearsed jazz trio. Besides Atsuo’s welcomed theatrical interactions with audience, each member of the band stands firmly in place. The power and intrigue of the show comes almost entirely from the sound itself. It’s hypnotic and incredibly physical. From head to toes you are absolutely DRENCHED in sound, and it’s unlike anything you can experience in most live settings, save for a My Bloody Valentine concert (and good luck making it to one in anything but a major city).
And that is where the magic of this band is, in the experience of sound itself. What sound does when it interacts with a room, what power it can conjure, what overtones it can cause its listeners to perceive is on full-display at a Boris show. It’s something you have to really experience to believe.
See the video I took of BORIS performing “Farewell” at this show here
Boris is on Tour in US thru September and in Russia/UK November through December
US Dates (+ 1 Canada Date)
09-03 Nashville, TN @ Exit In
09-04 Asheville, NC @ Orange Peel
09-07 Washington D.C. @ Black Cat
09-11 Boston, MA @ Paradise Rock Club
09-12 Portland, ME @ Port City Music Hall
09-14 Toronto, ON (CANADA) @ Lee’s Palace
09-15 Grand Rapids, MI @ The Pyramid Scheme
09-17 Chicago, IL @ Lincoln Hall
09-18 St. Louis, MO @ Delmar Hall
09-20 Denver, CO @ The Marquis Theater
09-21 Salt Lake City, UT @ Metro Music Hall
09-24 Portland, OR @ Doug Fir Lounge
09-28 Camarillo, CA @ Rock City Studios