Calling a particularly good album “the band’s best in years” doesn’t mean much when the band in question follows the standard release schedule of one LP every two or three years. When applied to Japan’s genre-hopping experimental rockers Boris, however, that phrase really means something. With zero lineup changes, the band has churned out twenty-four albums as a trio since 1996, and that’s not even counting the vast number of collaborations, EPs, and splits they’ve recorded. Yet satisfying material from the band has been in short supply as of late, their most recent releases being an unfulfilling trio of drone / ambient records in 2015. Perceiving a creative decline, Boris had originally slated Dear as their final album, but ultimately changed their minds after finding themselves inspired by their recent Pink tour. This couldn’t have been a better call; Dear isn’t just Boris’ best album in years, but also one of the most impressively composed records of their career.

Dear is a diverse, monolithic work of experimental doom that sees Boris revisiting the slow, crushing riffs of their early years while implementing the poppy, accessible singing styles they’ve tinkered with since 2011’s New Album. These vocals lend the lighter cuts a dreamy, melancholic vibe akin to Radiohead in their melodic atmosphere, but the record crushes just as often as it soothes. Even the most peaceful passages tow an unsettling undercurrent evident through droning background guitars, otherworldly feedback and creaking axe-strings. Considering Boris built their career around manipulation of amplifier ambience, it comes as no surprise that these effects, right down to the exact pace at which a guitar pick scrapes down a string, feel precisely planned despite appearing random at surface level. Indeed, the band seems to have taken great pains in planning Dear’s construction, resulting in an album that’s remarkably consistent in atmosphere while exploring countless compositional tangents.

Subtle though Dear often is, it has absolutely no reservations about grabbing the listener by the throat and dragging them into a well of despair. Make no mistake; what Boris has accomplished here sounds, in its heaviest moments, like the inevitability of the end. The aptly named “DEADSONG” is an aural representation of slow death via forces of nature, with tar-like funeral doom chords forming its foundation as squealing guitars mimic cicadas and something not-quite-human howls in the distance. The slow, dread-inducing buildup to the chainsaw riffs in instrumental “Power” is the auditory equivalent of a convicted man’s wait at the gallows, and the discomforting, manic roaring in the closing title track recalls Swans at their most vocally unhinged. Yet Dear isn’t totally pessimistic; the cathartic vocal peaks of “Memento Mori” and the gorgeous, bittersweet extended guitar solo in “Dystopia -Vanishing Point-” are prime examples of Boris’ emotional versatilty.

The only obstacle barring Dear from being an outright masterpiece is the poor production, a problem endemic to Boris itself. The band simply doesn’t care about making a dynamic sounding record, which I suppose is to be expected at this point. Yet the mix is undeniably wonky; the vocals are mixed a bit too high and the drums are confusingly buried. This is fine for most tracks, where the drums either make a minimal showing or are completely absent, but it weakens the more traditionally rhythmic cuts (see “Absolutego,” which has nothing to do with Absolutego). Looking past the mixing issues, however, there are beautiful moments of production ingenuity. The engineering of the background effects in the aforementioned “DEADSONG,” for instance, excel at accentuating the atmosphere of dread. Elsewhere, the persistent, distorted bass drum of “Biotope” that acts as the track’s sole mode of percussion is an intoxicatingly simple way of framing its shoegaze-y vocals and chord progressions.

Dear is, at nearly seventy minutes, a monumental effort, and is the kind of record where the listener has little choice on first exposure but to let the music completely overtake them. Once one grows accustomed to its sheer density, however, it quickly becomes apparent that Boris has crafted an admirably varied array of songs that somehow work perfectly together. This collection exemplifies the band at their very best, working with several genres and experimental styles while also being a welcome return to unabashed doom metal. Dear is so diverse and consistently great that, at the time of this writing, it’s difficult to think of a better starting point for Boris newcomers, but I have no doubts that it will be hailed as a high point of their extensive career in years to come, as well.


Rating: 4.0/5.0
DR: 4 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Daymare Records (Japan) | Sargent House (Rest of the world)
Websites: borisheavyrocks.com | boris.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/borisheavyrocks
Release Dates: JP: 2017.07.12 | WW: 07.14.2017

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  • GardensTale

    Excellent review! I never checked out Boris despite their legacy, but you got me curious enough to give it a spin.

  • Huck N’ Roll

    Now THIS is the Japanese album of choice for July.

    • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

      Of course you got to review the OTHER one.

  • Shrümpelstiltskin

    Can’t wait for this album. By the way, are you guys gonna review the new Decapitated record? I wanna talk about it with someone.

    • Very soon.

      • Shrümpelstiltskin

        Thank you.

    • Reese Burns

      It’s a pretty good record. Certainly better than Blood Mantra, though I still prefer Carnival is Forever. Lyrics have always been one of Decapitated’s strong points (aside from a few ESL bumps), so it sucks that Anticult doesn’t seem to have had its lyrics posted online yet.

      • Shrümpelstiltskin

        Let’s save this discussion for the comments in the actual review.

  • rumour_control

    Balanced and fair review, with good writing, about a complicated and tragically beautiful piece of music. Kudos to the band, and the writer of this piece.

  • Sean Sky

    Boris still doing it after about 100 albums. Gonna have to listen.

  • Ferrous Beuller

    Great album and trouser-touchingly good review.

  • Too funny, I just posted on the Heaven in Her Arms review about how I haven’t seen any Japanese bands on this website and now 2 within 24 hours. I don’t even have to write a rant about how great Seikima-II is this time!

    I will have to give this a more devoted listen on louder speakers. I don’t think this crappy speaker I have on my work computer can do this justice even taking into account the criticisms about the recording quality.

    Thanks as ever for helping me find something I would otherwise never have heard! How I have never heard of Boris I don’t know, especially considering how much my guitarist and my cousin exposed me to Japanese music.

    • [not a Dr]

      Search this site for Sigh. You’ll find reviews and an interview.

      • Thank you sir. I am “new” to this website and it has resparked my interest in listening to new music, so it wasn’t a complaint, just an observation. I will indeed search.

        • Eldritch Elitist

          Galneryus, Boris and Sigh are my personal trifecta of J-Metal bands, and all of them have extensive discographies. The catalog of the latter two bands is especially satisfying to dig into. Happy listening, and welcome!

          • Mollusc

            First thing I heard of Boris was the collaboration they did with Sunno))), Altar, which I really love. I got Sigh Insomnophobia after reading the review on this site – didn’t know what to think at first… but keeping coming back to it! Thanks for this review, too.

          • Akira Watts

            I absolutely love Boris and Sigh, but have never really heard Galneryus. Seeing them mentioned in that context though, makes me think I should most definitely check them out.

          • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

            Galneryus sounds nothing like Boris. Or Sigh. Neither do Sigh or Boris sound alike, anyways…

          • Akira Watts

            Well yes. Boris and Sigh sound nothing like one another. Yet both make music that I very much enjoy, so I’m inclined to think that, if someone mentions a) that they dig the both of them, and b) that there’s a third band that they likewise dig, their taste aligns with mine enough that I might very well like that third band.

          • I spent most of yesterday afternoon exploring Sigh online and digging their music. I love the diverse instruments they use and some of the odd choices they make stylistically!

          • I am listening to Sigh now, thank you both!

            I am still partial to
            Seikima-II as my all time favorite Japanese band and doubt they can be
            topped for me. I have listened to Galneryus in the past as well.
            Seikima-II just has such a long history of great music and their style
            evolved over time but still stayed very true to who they are. I never
            became a huge fan of X-Japan or Loudness but can listen to both of them once in a while. Anthem is also really good but I’ve only heard two of their albums so I am not sure if all their stuff is quality.

            I beg all of you to give Seikima-II a chance. I know I am getting annoying but they are so talented and their songwriting is fantastic.

          • Unwanted Guest

            Kogure is one of the best metal singer, I think., and it may be undeniable for others. However, Seikima-II have stopped being true metal band in the end of 20th century. And that type of heavy metal, Ozzy mixed with Maiden style in early years and prog power in latter years, are not the thing for AMG. So the review will be harsh on them.

          • I’ve seen bands on here be reviewed favorably that were not strictly metal. The guys seem to be open-minded to non-metal albums if the music is played well and written well.

            I think each Seikima-II era was very good and Ponk!! is one of their best albums, in my opinion. Demon is an absolute monster of a vocalist. I honestly think the weakest member of the band is Raiden as his drum beats don’t really vary as much as the rest of the music but that’s not a huge negative for me. I absolutely LOVE Xenon, I just wish his bass were louder in the mix as on many of their albums he is at a low volume and hard to hear his crazy bass lines.

          • Unwanted Guest

            I totally agree with you on Raiden. Then, it’s a common problem for Japanese bands. They tend to overhype guitars and vocals but overlook the importance of the rhythm section, which affects the composing process, making the song plain and flat. Xenon’s playing is mesmerizing, so the only problem for Seikima-II is Raiden.

        • [not a Dr]

          I had kind of assumed you were not a long date reader of this site, no complaint perceived. Even easier for your search: just click on the Japanese Metal tag at the top of this review.

    • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

      While we are on the subject of Japanese Metal, may I suggest Defiled and Desecravity? they’re technical, brutal Death Metal. And Gorevent, which are Slamtastic.

      • Unwanted Guest

        Desecravity: A-
        Defiled: B
        Anatomia: B (Dark Doom Death)
        Gorevent: B- (Slam monger)
        Coffins: B
        Infernal revulsion: B+
        Disconformity; A+ (the few of the best Japanese slamming death metal. They are charisma in Japan, despite they have never released any thing since 2005.)
        GxSxD: B+ (simple but enjoyable)
        Death I Am: A (modern death metal)
        Vomit Remnants: AAA (one of the pioneers of Slamming Death Metal from Japan. They’ve reunited and changed their style)
        Ritual Carnage: B+ (early releases are good fast death/thrash)

        A stands for Japanese A, not meaning worldwide standard.

      • I am refusing to check anything out. I am going to be a brat and cross my arms until Seikima-II become the most well known Japanese band in America. :-P

        Actually, that’s a lie, thanks for the suggestions. Have you ever heard Anthem or Seikima-II?

        • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

          I’m about to check their music but I just checked their pictures online. Make sure Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons never hear about them, I’m sure they’d sue Seikima-II’s asses off!

          • That’s a fair point. I’d be shocked if they hadn’t already been sued for it, they’ve been around since 1982 or something like that. Their music is far superior, however, and they are legends in Japan. They also do things like singing while standing on their head or eating apples while playing guitar solos. Don’t ask why I think that’s so awesome but I do.

          • Also, I’d advise them not to try to sue Seikima-II. These guys are demons who ended the world on New Years Eve 1999 in what was their final concert. They always sang about ending the world at the turn of the century so they ended their careers with a final show that night and then disbanded.

            Of course, even demons need money, so they came back 10 years later to record 2 albums in English.

  • Bas

    70 minutes.. Frightening…

  • HeavyMetalHamster

    I thought this was a review of the new Sasha Baron Cohen movie…

  • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

    I love the band picture, if only because of the accordion. I had never seen such a long accordion… Of course it’s some Photoshop trickery, but it’s a clever concept nicely executed. And it made me wonder if there’s any accordion music on the album.

  • Akerblogger

    Fantastic review. That 1-2-3 finishing blow of “Memento Mori”, “Dystopia Vanishing Point” and “Dear” shoots this up to a 4 for me. A bit too long, causing it to lose steam at points, and mix issues, however some of the atmospheres are otherworldly. They mix clean vocals and subtlety with crushing aggression so well.

    I predict they’ll release a country-folk record in the vein of an even more pessimistic early Neil Young, although interspersed elements of rough Pig Destroyer grind and second-wave black-metal will act as buffers between the solemnity. If not this, maybe a stoner romp re-calling Akuma No Uta? Please be that.

  • Dudeguy Jones

    I admit to having forsaken Boris in recent years. I could always go for their classics, but began finding things like Rainbow and Smile to not hold my attention for long, when once they too were cherished.

    This, though… this has given me hope. Only two songs for my plebeian, non-writer ears, at the moment, but I know that I now must sit down and listen to it properly, like I used to do for all of their earlier albums.

    Thanks for sticking around, Boris. Thanks for the sweet review, Eldy.

  • Here’s Johnny

    Dear has received a lot of poor reviews elsewhere, so even this review is not compelling me to start listening to this as a starting point.

    • chris

      A starting point to Boris? Good luck with that!

  • a glass o’ milk

    Coming from the Merzbow-collaboration “Gensho”, “Dear” has blown me away. Wasn’t expecting this kind of quality, especially after having listened to and dealing with “Gensho”.

  • Captain Craig MacKenzie

    Had the succinct pleasure of witnessing Boris live at Diesel in 2008 with Torche as the opener. Fantastic show. Nice time hanging out after w/ J Nunez chatting about the virtues of Travis Bean and aluminum necks.. Pink on vinyl is a good starting point for those not familiar with this band.

  • Patrick Bertlein

    I always give this band a try, and it never clicks with me. Just how it is. I’ll take Corrupted any day.

    Glad others like it though I guess!

    • herrschobel

      that´ the spirit !

  • herrschobel

    cover : fantastic / music : fantastic .. it must be Boris !