Heavy Rocks [2022]


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Heavy Rocks [2022] Review

by Thom Jurek

When Japan's Boris unleashed the first volume of Heavy Rocks (Heavy Rocks [2002]), it provided a stripped-down, blown-out, riff-centric answer to 2000's Flood, a wildly experimental four-part suite that juxtaposed unruly feedback, ambient effects, drone, and freeform guitar skree utilizing a dynamic palette ranging from near silence to earth-shattering cacophony. They revisited those aesthetics on Heavy Rocks [2011] as a way of returning from adventurous collaborations with Merzbow, guitarist Michio Kurihara, and Sunn 0))). The third volume in the Heavy Rocks series (Heavy Rocks [2022]) follows 2020's punk-metal bash on No, and the intimate, serpentine, vulnerable W from January 2022. This volume, easily the most diverse of the three in the series, melds classic '70s proto-metal sounds to those of punk, post-punk, indie rock, and more. While Boris have always been difficult to pigeonhole, they've always been a woolly, rugged, loud rock band at heart.

Opener "She Is Burning" weds jazz sax-skronk to fuzzed-out punk in a high-octane sprint. "My Name Is Blank" sounds like the Pagans if they'd formed in 21st century Japan instead of 1970s Cleveland. "Blah Blah Blah" is more open and experimental. Tom-toms and snares roll and rumble as shard-like, feedback guitars and blasted-out fuzz basses frame tortured vocals and a bleating tenor sax. "Question 1" employs D-beat fury before morphing into abstract, spacy, layered feedback and a clattering attempt at death metal complete with Cookie Monster vocals. The thrumming, abstract, detuned "Nosferatu" nods directly at Sonic Youth and Sunn 0))) in its rugged, experimental chug and drone. "Ruins" is two-and-a-half minutes of blazing D-beat hardcore worthy of early Discharge with a five-second Thin Lizzy-esque twin guitar break added for perversity. The frantic, out of control "Ghostly Imagination" is a metaphor for the entire set. Hardcore punk and thrash metal entwine with paint-peeling, muddy, raw production, ultra-distorted guitars, screaming, and blastbeat drumming. Contrast this with the proto-industrial metal that introduces the raw, incendiary, hooky punk in "Chained." Set-closer "(Not) Last Song" is the album's outlier. Over six-minutes long, it's based on a simple, slowly evolving piano motif using single chords and fills. A moaning, wailing male vocal climbs above hints of glitch, with distant white noise and guitar feedback winding through and around it; the track meanders in phases with a restrained dynamic until it suddenly ends in abrupt silence, leaving the listener unsettled.

As a whole, Heavy Rocks [2022] is demanding, wild, and raw, yet needs to be heard in a single listening session. After three decades together, Boris continue to willfully and eagerly engage a tense musical restlessness that keeps them sounding unsettled, ambitious, often feral, and in a class of their own.

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