W is the new album from Japanese heavy rock band Boris, the follow up to 2021’s NO which featured a set of thunderous, tectonic tracks ended with the ethereal ‘Interlude’, a track that shares a melody with ‘I Want to Go to the Side Where You Can Touch…’ the first track of W. This is their first album for the excellently eclectic Sacred Bones Records. Whereas NO could shake the fillings out of your head W is a more reflective record that encompasses a more ambient side of their music with the band setting out as sonic explorers passing through landscapes that can be as still as space or as buffeting as tunnelling deep into the Earth’s core.

The first four tracks build slowly, swirling and viscous like the oil paint depicted on the cover. From the elongated steel winds of ‘I Want to Go to the Side Where You Can Touch’, ‘Icelina’ with warping sounds that trill and loop around washes of guitar, soft juddering beats and singer Wata’s half-whispered vocals, ‘Drowning By Numbers’ which layers noise, susurrating feedback and rat-a-tat drums and ‘Invitation’ which is a beautiful galaxy of sounds. None of this can prepare you for ‘The Fallen’, an epic monolith of power chords and a wailing guitar solo that acts like a laser fired out over a battlefield of drums.

I have always been drawn to artists who could sit in the soundtrack of a David Lynch film and Boris definitely fit the bill (Lynch favourite Julee Cruise is also on Sacred Bones Records), no more so than on the heroic ‘Beyond Good and Evil’ an epic sonic anthem just past the halfway point of W. ‘Old Projector’ and ‘You Will Now’ could also be played in Twin Peak’s Bang Bang Bar, with heavily reverbed guitar chords, shimmering from the whammy bar, making it sound like a black hole is stretching Link Ray back back to an atomic state. The final track ‘Jozan’ is a guitar solo from a distance and could be the sound of the band finally leaving our galaxy.

Boris are Takeshi on vocals, bass and guitar, Atsuo on vocals, drums, percussion & electronics and Wata on vocals, guitar, accordion, music box & echo (one of the coolest instrument lists I have ever seen) who are producing music that seems to come from another place, vibrating between our world and an unfamiliar realm. There are controlled explosions of effects and noise juxtaposed against delicate vocals, intuitive drums/percussion and widescreen guitar. There is no safety net of a verse-chorus-middle 8-fade-out, just a band shaping a landscape, trying to forge new continents in sound with the help of suGar Yoshinaga’s vibrant sound production. Their sound evokes the epic vistas of Ennio Morricone but filtered through granite and magma.

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Review by Paul F Cook

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