There is a delightful uncertainty associated with a new Boris album. The Japanese three piece have spent twenty-five years keep metal fans on their toes with aplomb. Every new release brings with it a myriad of questions of style, tone and content that makes the pre-release period surprisingly fun. This extends to the first few runs through the record. Each iteration uncovers unexpected turns, subtle slivers of sound folded deeply into the mix and new tapestries of noise that you somehow missed. The only real guarantee that the group offers is that things are going to get exceeding heavy at some point. Unfortunately, such diversity can lead to uneven songwriting and with how prolific the group have been over the last seven years, quality control seems have taken a hit. So where does Dear, their 23rd LP, stand in the pantheon of Boris? Somewhere in the middle.
Right off the bat it’s important to acknowledge that when this album is good, it is exceedingly good. ‘D.O.W.N. -Domination of Waiting Noise-’ kicks the doors off the hinges with its loose skinned drums ushering in a gargantuan wall of heaviness. Like a fine wine, it takes its time breaking and allowing just the right amount of time between the slabs of noise and the disembodied wails. It is just great. It feels like Sunn O))) with a more clearly defined metronome. The record floats around this stylistic idea. On songs like ‘Memento Mori’ it retains this abstraction and other times it confines itself into a more rigidly defined Black Sabbath/stoner metal mould as on ‘Absolutego’. But there are plenty of twists and turns ahead, the most pleasant of which would be shoegaze-y ‘Biotope’ and ‘Beyond’. While still ominous and murky, there is a dreamlike aura to these songs. It’s almost as though an Isn’t Anything-era My Bloody Valentine decided to cover Om. They’re delicate, dangerous and exceedingly beautiful and offer a great counterpoint to the less melodious sides of the album.
One of the more infuriating tropes of the drone genre is the mistaken assumption that if you downtune everything to oblivion and filter it through some pedals, you’ve cracked it. Great drone isn’t just noise, it’s finely textured and considered, like a Jackson Pollock painting. In its best moments, Dear achieves this. ‘Biotope’, ‘Distopia -Vanishing Point-‘ and ‘Deadsong’ hit this dead on with a cool confidence and prowess. The problem is that while there are some tracks that manage to do something great, a lot more miss that target by some margin. These are the cuts that do just feel like they decided to get high, go down to drop B and make some noise. This mentality definitely has it’s place, but when the runtime is closing in on its 70th minute, you’re left wondering if they actually have anything more to say. This was recorded as a farewell record and thankfully the group have decided against that. This isn’t the record a group like Boris should go out on. It’s decent, but it’s not good enough. Will Murphy