In 2002, Japanese metal trio Boris took a crucial step outside of their early drone/doom material and let the riffs fly on an album dubbed, appropriately, Heavy Rocks. The album marked a turning point for the band, as from that point on, no two albums the band released in succession bore many similarities to one another, and hooks had become just as much an essential element to the band’s sound (constantly evolving as it is) as crushing heaviness. Yet while the album became a fan favorite, and a cult metal classic, it remained a Japan-only release, somehow excluded from the group of back-catalogue albums that Southern Lord reissued in 2005.
In 2011, however, Boris announced they would be releasing two albums, one of them named Heavy Rocks. Fans would be forgiven for initially assuming the band was finally preparing an American reissue of the album, but this is where it gets confusing. Heavy Rocks is, in fact, an entirely new album, but one that bears the exact same name as their 2002 effort, and the exact same cover graphic, albeit in a purple color palette instead of the original’s orange. Though this certainly resulted in a few puzzled looks and scratched heads, the title makes a lot more sense once you hear the album. The band’s most straightforward, ass-kicking stoner metal album since Pink, Heavy Rocks is, on a very literal level, heavy rock.
A heavier, noisier and much more metal counterpart to Attention Please, which shares the same release date, Heavy Rocks is Boris getting back to basics and hammering out their best old school heavy metal riffs and head-banging hooks. More Pentagram or Kyuss than Sunn0))) or Earth, Heavy Rocks includes few moments of devastating, earth-shattering drones, the band opting instead for an album of Friday night debauchery and fists-in-the-air adrenaline. Once Atsuo kicks off the massive stomp of “Riot Sugar,” the band’s M.O. is pretty well established; put away the arty pretense and the scary-ass dirges, because it’s time to get rocked.
The album’s first four tracks offer an unrelenting sequence of fuzzed-out, meaty heavy metal, the kind that requires absolutely no qualifiers or hyphens, nor theses or manifestos. They grow a touch psychedelic on “Leak -truth,yesnoyesnoyes” (actual title), careen at maximum speed on rocket ride “Galaxians” and even insert a slight, danceable groove to “Jackson Head.” Yet, oddly, there are a couple of 12-minute-long power ballads packed into this set, their presence only slightly setting the album’s pace off kilter. And though “Missing Pieces” and “Aileron” might seem a tad excessive, considering these two tracks make up almost half of the album, they’re a rare glimpse into Boris’ more beautiful moments, made slightly chaotic with the occasional explosion of feedback and noise.
For Boris, Heavy Rocks is not just an album title (or two, for that matter), but a mission statement. In more than a decade and a half, they’ve tackled numerous variations on rock, imbuing each style with a heaviness with which few bands would be willing to contend. And on this installment, the band have once again proven themselves masters of heavy rock(s).
Kyuss – Welcome to Sky Valley
Melvins – Houdini
Boris – Pink
Stream: Boris – “Riot Sugar”
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.