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Boris: NO

For a nearly 30-year-old band with over 40 albums (yes, collaborations count) under its belt, Boris matches an incredible work ethic with consistent quality. While albums like Amplifier Worship (1998) and the Sunn O))) collab Altar (2006) have made the Japanese trio drone/doom metal royalty, releases like Pink (2005) and New Album (2011) display their limitless artistry. Take last year’s LφVE & EVφL and 1985—the band jumped from shoegazey post-metal to glamorous dream pop in two months. All that to say it’s very much within Boris’ ethos to drop an album of hardcore punk bangers without warning. NO balances a respect for Japanese hardcore tradition with uncompromising idiosyncrasy, resulting in one of the most brazen and punishing Boris albums to date.

While the instrumental intro “Genesis” starts things off with a familiar dose of primitive doom metal, it doesn’t take long for apocalyptic heaviness to give way to filthy hardcore. Mind you, Boris retains its thick, nasty tones once “Anti-Gone” kicks into high gear. The song is straight up crust punk steeze. Boris’ love of blitz-speed punk rock is apparent in these infectious riffs and tumbling beats. Feral screams and melodic singing commingle on tracks like “Non Blood Lore,” much like the first Bad Brains album. All three members add rousing hooks where they count most amid chaotic guitars and pummelling percussion.

Authenticity is the key ingredient to this standard-setting album. Only connoisseurs of Japanese hardcore would recognize “Fundamental Error” as a cover of a song by Gudon. Comparing the two performances evidences how deeply NO resonates at the core of Japan’s punk rock scene. This doesn’t sound like a doom band trying to play punk, but a great band playing punk correctly. This is why the noise-mongering “Temple of Hatred” resurrects the slam-dance-worthy pandemonium of yesteryear while keeping up with boundary-pushing countrymen like Endon.

“Zerkalo” and “HxCxHxC -Parforation Line-” contrast Boris’ familiar penchant for lumbering darkness with its renewed fascination with eviscerating attacks. Even by Boris standards, the former becomes absolutely mind-melting as the band piles layer after layer of hellish shrieks onto a repetitious, crushing sludge metal riff. The latter’s high-end tremolo guitars and galloping rhythms feel just as natural and emotionally gripping, making these two cuts a mid-album microcosm of Boris’ adaptable chops. Both extremes overflow with the passion, detail and energy that has kept Boris going strong for so long.

It’s easy to think of NO as an exercise in ruthless aggression, but Boris’ songwriting remains as inspired and engaging as ever. The violent double-bass and mutated anti-riffs of “Kikinoue” collapse into a decimating sludgecore groove, just like synthetic feedback slithers throughout the primal pit-starter “Lust.” The band finds the perfect pocket as easily as it jumps the tracks, which keeps the penultimate song “Loveless” compelling as it traverses enraged crossover hardcore/thrash, stomping two-steps and oceanic stoner rock riffs and hazy vocal harmonies. Boris maintains alien guitar leads and motifs throughout these distinct stylistic shifts, offering surprising cohesion within unpredictable tumult.

“Interlude” draws NO to a close with a delicate dreamscape, rounding off a violent stylistic turn with one last hint at Boris’ established sound palette. It’s safe to say Boris has never released an album like this before, but it’s very much a Boris album. NO’s raw exuberance carries the tenacious spirit and unrelenting creativity that keeps Boris on the vanguard of heavy music in Japan and far beyond.

NO balances a respect for Japanese hardcore tradition with uncompromising idiosyncrasy, resulting in one of the most brazen and punishing Boris albums to date.
89 %
Punk Prestige
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