Boris are back. Boris are ending. Boris have returned to their roots. Boris are not comfortable with the notion they are returning to their roots. Dear is the capstone to an amazing 25+ year career. Dear is not the end. Dear IS the end…What does it matter? It’s the nth album from the Japanese gods of the heavy, and whether it started as a farewell letter and transformed into a celebration, one thing is clear: Dear is another gorgeously thick slab of sound slowly and eternally unwinding itself in new permutations for those of us who have been hooked since the beginning.
Starting with debut Absolutego back in 1996 Boris have always tried to looks for different ways to explore the heaviest of sounds imaginable. The search has taken many forms, from the drone/doom of their debut to the noise collaboration Sun Baked Snow Cave with Merzbow, to the more tuneful and melodic (but no less heavy) forays of Pink, Smile and the underrated pop/showgaze infection of New Album. With such a staggering output (a quick check of Wikipedia shows over 35 “official” releases) this singular focus on exploring different aspects of what makes music “heavy” have always yielded interesting results, and Dear is no different, with the trio slowing the tempo down dramatically from 2014’s Noise in order to carve a massive path of sludge that reveals hidden depths of soul in between the subsonic notes and rumbling drums.
“D.O.W.N -Domination of Waiting Noise” kicks Dear off with a series of slow punches to the face with riffs like glaciers, slowly rolling over you as it moves imperceptibly towards a series of mournful wails. It’s always astounding to hear what noises Wata can wring out of her guitar, and Dear shows her facility yet again to take a mountain and show you every line etched in the stone. “Deadsong” features more of this cavernous tolling, while a much shorter “Absolutego” moves in the opposite direction of its namesake, invoking the spirit of classic Black Sabbath in its mid-paced mosh.
There are larger dynamics at play in songs like “Beyond” where the more accessible, mournful moments act as punctuation to the more drone and experimental opening. Likewise “Kagero” which spends much of its five and a half minute runtime creeping in menace, squalls of feedback and bass crushing the listener as the track intensifies but never releases. It’s almost a relief by the time “Memento More” hits with its plaintive vocals and held chords. But it’s the last two tracks where the most surprises are to be found, whether it’s the soaring solo at the tail end of “Dystopia -Vanishing Point-” or the serious drone and scream pastiche that makes up the evil tone of the title track, which closes the record out.
What to conclude from a band that has spent a quarter of a century making sure we always had something to marvel at, something that was loud and big and mysterious and indescribable even as we wasted thousands of words over the years trying? Is it the end? Is it a new beginning? What different does it make when the music starts and you can’t think of anything else but the massive wall of noise bleeding in and through your soul?