The legendary prolificacy of Boris reached a fever pitch around 2011 and 2012, when no fewer than 10 works bearing the band’s name were released. The Japanese trio hasn’t been exactly quiet since then, but enough so that Noise—its 19th full-length—comes with a bit more anticipation. After telescoping its sound and studio lineup to include a staggering array of sounds and guest musicians, Noise finds the trio stripped down to its core. The songs, though, haven’t gotten any less expansive.
Boris has always grafted together numerous styles—sometimes from song to song, and other times within the same song, deliriously. That dial-twisting eclecticism abounds on Noise. Continuing the group’s love of on-the-nose titles, “Melody” opens the album with a soaring, sweeping anthem, one that channels bassist-vocalist Takeshi’s knack for Swervedriver-esque swirl and Smashing Pumpkins-level grandeur. Boris’ vaunted heaviness, as formidable as ever, grinds those hooks underfoot on “Quicksilver,” which less successfully marries hardcore-level speed with shoegaze atmosphere, all while trying to maintain the mood for a full 10 minutes. Boris’ stamina has never been in doubt; guitarist Wata and drummer Atsuo are more than up to the task, playing powerfully and inventively as they navigate an obstacle course of change-ups. It’s a stunning exercise—and a fatiguing one.
For every burst of brilliance on Noise—the Isis-goes-pop post-metal of “Vanilla,” the underwater melancholy of “Heavy Rain”—there’s a stretch of blandness, such as “Siesta,” the anticlimactic closing track that should have been stuffed in earlier as an interlude, if included at all. They’re all overshadowed, though, by “Angel.” Nearing 19 minutes, it’s a psychedelic opus stuffed with space-rock sprawl and nervily cultivated tension. It’s worth the ride, even if the bland, six-minute intro feels like so much pseudo-epic throat-clearing. Boris is back, and the band is as strong as ever. If only Noise felt less of a need to overcompensate when showing it.