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Boris – Heavy Rocks

on May 27, 2011, 7:57am
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Heavy Rocks is a disparate mélange of hard-rockers, space-rock epics, and bursts of noise that at times dips into each of Boris’ diverse musical styles without ever committing to a single one. Through and through a solid record, but it’s set back by a lack of the coherence of vision that the band’s best albums exhibit.

The album’s lead track, “Riot Sugar”, sets the initial tone for the album, with its plodding, stoner-metal guitar riffs over crashing cymbals and backup wailing by guest vocalist Ian Astbury, Boris’s bandmate from side project BXI and lead singer of The Cult. This and the three tracks that follow get Heavy Rocks off to a strong start with a string of great rock and roll numbers.

“Leak – Truth,yesnoyesnoyes-” is the most idiosyncratic track on the album, sounding the farthest from anything that Boris has released previously. With lo-fi-sounding production and a dirty guitar tone behind an impassioned vocal melody, the song seems to draw more inspiration from vintage Dinosaur Jr than the Melvins. “GALAXIANS” is as good a punk-rocker as the band has recorded, with dizzyingly fast drums and a buzzsaw guitar assault. “Jackson Head” is in the same vein, with the title repeated anthemically over a heavy metal groove.

The album starts to fall flat at “Missing Pieces”, the first of two nearly 13-minute epics that make up the meat of Heavy Rocks. Equal parts quietly strummed ballad and noisy mess of feedback, the song kills the great momentum that the album led off with as it drags out much longer than necessary.

“Window Shopping” is perhaps the poppiest track Boris has ever laid to disc, alternating between singsong lyrics, sludgy guitar crunch, and a screaming, fuzzed-out guitar solo. At less than two minutes each, “Key” and “Czechoslovakia” are unmemorable pieces that feel more like filler than actual songs. “Aileron”, the second 13-minute slow-burner on the album, goes on for about seven minutes too long, smothering, murky, distorted instrumental work with repetitious, lethargic singing.

Unfortunately, the frequent style jumps make for a choppy listening experience, and the large amount of filler detracts from the handful of really great songs on the album. This isn’t the hard-hitting rock of Pink or Smile, and it’s not the more melodic, atmospheric music found on Rainbow or the new Attention Please, or even the noisy, experimental metal of Absolutego or their Sunn O))) collaboration, Altar. Because Heavy Rocks can’t seem to figure out what it wants to be, it falls short of other Boris albums.

Ultimately, Heavy Rocks is an album that won’t disappoint Boris completists, but casual fans who are only looking to purchase one of the two Boris discs released this week should go with the much better Attention Please.

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