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There are few genres that repel unknowing listeners away quite as rapidly as metal does. Of course, metal would not be metal without its uncompromising attitude towards the uninitiated, but sometimes it’s frustrating how difficult it is to find metal records that have any crossover appeal. Even for a style of music that revels in isolation and the extremes of human darkness, surely there exists a universal truth in the bleakness of metal that can be conveyed in a relatable way to newcomers.
Boris definitely seems to think so. These Japanese maniacs have spent their career casting out lines between drone music, doom metal, noise punk and straight-up psychedelic rock and then skipping over those lines as if they were in some life-or-death game of hopscotch. They’re like the sonic equivalent of the French Liam Neeson vehicle “Taken”, so completely obsessed with the tropes of the genres they tackle that their sheer enthusiasm breathes new life into concepts that might feel juvenile in less capable hands.
This is certainly the case with the most grandiose of their releases, the 2005 behemoth, “Flood.”All this talk of metal belies the fact that only about 14 of these 70 staggering minutes are all that heavy; “Flood” is much more concerned with the resonance allowed by minimalism, almost like a direct opposition to the needlessly complex prog epics of the 70’s. Just listen to the opening track, which literally consists of one endlessly repeated riff along with some distant menacing ambiance. These five notes circle around each other like some seagull hovering above a still island, the delay effect seeming to provide company at first before the offset of rhythms creates the slightest sense of discomfort. Wherever we are right now, it isn’t safe to stay for much longer.
Despite the warning signs at the end of the first, the second track maintains a serene feeling of motion. E-Bowed guitars strike a piercing light through the bubbly, minor chord progression before an extended guitar solo carries the song through an assortment of passages that manage to be dreamy and subdued, yet soulful and fiery all at once. This sense of drifting continues into the third section, which slowly builds a body of distortion in the background before lumbering in with an absolute golem of a guitar riff. Boris’ trademark amplifier-incinerating guitar tone reduces all of the scenery of “Flood” into rubble, earning its doom metal badges without ever losing the golden chords that keep the band’s head out of the underworld.
Several interludes of intense shredding and crumbling drones lead into the fourth and final movement of the record, a completely submerged continuation of the riff established in the previous section. As the harsh, bluesy pattern slowly disintegrates into the depths from where it came, peace seems to return to the land with ambient reflections that coat the track in a deep slumber. However, this sense of resolution slowly reveals an even more abstract sense of darkness lurking underneath, growing ever distant as the track winds down, but never turning its gaze away.
Boris demands quite a bit of patience from the brave souls who dare enter the detailed and melancholy world they’ve created in “Flood.” The final section especially continues for such an extended period of time that by the end, the glimmers of hope that emerged earlier truly seem like a thing of the past. And yet even their attempts at ambient music are so fully realized that any accusations of extremism seem ignorant to what commanders of genres these sonic warriors are. “Flood” is one of Boris’ least tongue-in-cheek albums, a genuine achievement of inhuman proportions that marries disparate schools of musical thought into a constantly surprising and enthralling listen for music enthusiasts of all kinds. If metal always seemed like a strange outsider in the massive landscape of music, “Flood” fits it into the picture just because anything less extreme would be doomed to fall short.
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Sam Goldner at Samuel.firstname.lastname@example.org.