The Tokyo-based trio Boris celebrated thirty years creating music and sound together this year, and what better way for them to revel in their epic legacy than by releasing three full-length albums in 2022? (Read our reviews of W and Heavy Rocks.) Fade is the latest, which came as a surprise release with no prior announcement, and the six tracks ignite a listener’s imagination, plunging you into a sort of psychedelic meditation. Through their three decades as a band, Boris have either defied categorization or over-inspired it. Their music has been described as experimental rock, noise, avant-garde metal, doom metal, post-metal, drone metal, sludge metal, psych rock, shoegaze, dreampop, and crust punk, among many other possible sub-genres and their sound often changes album to album. Fade also resists simple classification, and is most certainly experimental, with elements of many of those genres woven throughout, but with a distinct focus on drone metal.
The album’s six tracks are presented in “chapters,” with a prologue and epilogue, and an unrecorded afterword that exists only as sensation (at least to this listener). Just like enjoying a surreal novel, Fade invites you to explore other worlds. So close your eyes, listen, visualize, and get lost in the layers of Boris’ sound.
Boris (photo by Yoshihiro Mori)
The first track, “Prologue Sensaro” (Sensaro means “three-forked road” or “junction of three roads” in Japanese) immediately immerses you in an undulating wall of guitar noise and electronica. Wata, Boris’ much-lauded guitarist holds court, joined by Takeshi, who usually plays bass (or switches between guitar and bass), but here both Wata and Takeshi are unleashing a swirling curtain of guitar sound feeding back on itself in pulsing waves. Atsuo (who on other albums also offers masterful metalesque vocals) is primarily adding to the soundscape on electronics, with occasional bursts of drums establishing momentary rhythmic grooves within the sonic maelstrom.
“Prologue Sensaro” also has a gorgeous and hypnotizing video featuring camera work and editing by Ryuta Murayama. The video sees Wata in a stunning Bjorkian costume made of what looks like moonbeam cellophane. The original fifteen plus minutes of the song are cut down to just over nine minutes, but you still have plenty of time to sink to the ocean floor and swim just under the surface with a scantily-clad-yet-very-goth female figure who may be the sexiest sea witch this planet has to offer.
The thick layers of guitar noise continue in “Howling Moon, Melting Sun” (which also clocks in at around fifteen minutes), with aggressive extended chords roiling while high-pitched electronic vibrations swirl above. At times, one can hear voices within the storm. It’s hard to tell what is the moon here and what is the sun, but if celestial bodies began to howl and bend and melt around each other, I’m pretty sure this is what it would sound like.
“Michikusa” (which in Japanese means to dawdle or waste time) is a shorter track, the softest on the album, with floating synth and electronic sounds that again create the sensation of voices or even whale songs, but it cuts off abruptly because “nanji, sashidasareta te wo tsukamu bekarazu” is coming. (Translation: “when you should not grab the outstretched hand.”) Fade’s fourth song (but third chapter) unleashes the uncontrollable beast that is Wata’s brutal guitar sound again here, like an unrelenting monster that is stomping its giant feet, causing mammoth earthquakes and breaking the world apart. If this thing offers its hand to you, well yeah, I’d advise against taking it.
The aftermath of the monster is “Marine Snow,” a wall of fuzzy guitar noise much like the blizzard suggested by this fourth chapter’s title. Like witnessing a frozen tornado above the ocean, you can hear the wind and waves in this track, the power of the sky meeting the power of the sea. But once again, after one final crash, the song ends abruptly, and it’s time for the epilogue.
Boris signed tour Polaroid
“A Bao A Qu–Infinite Corridor” begins with the slow twinkling notes of an old music box that seems to summon all of the rotating cosmos as big thick guitar chords erupt again, pulsing through static, like the beacons of light shooting out from a space-age city in Fade’s cover art. In the middle of the song we hear a fluttering of cymbals, and again, distant indecipherable voices calling out to the night. “A Bao A Qu” references a mythical creature from literature that originally appeared in Arabian Nights, and again in Book of Imaginary Beings by Jorge Luis Borges, and Boris has recorded three earlier versions of the song—on 2004’s The Thing Which Solomon Overlooked, 2005’s Mabata No Ura (a soundtrack from an imaginary film), and 2014’s The Thing Which Solomon Overlooked Extra. This newest iteration of the song is the longest of the four recorded, offering a triumphant cacophony for fourteen and a half minutes, until the thunderous layers of sound suddenly burn out. But Boris’ beautiful noise continues to smolder in your mind, like being buried in marine snow (the afterword).
Fade has served as my introduction to the intricate, diverse, and stunningly impressive body of work that Boris has shared with the world over the past thirty years, and I’m definitely now a fan. I missed their live show at Webster Hall back in September (but our EIC was there, see below for her pics from the show), but I’m hoping they will return to New York soon. In the meantime, I will go explore their mammoth discography and continue to get joyously lost in Fade.
Fade is available now via Bandcamp.
Boris at Webster Hall (photos by Kate Hoos)