So you want to go see a rock show this Friday, huh? Well, on the 29th, you have two choices: the ghost of glam rock glory with Guns N' Roses at Camping World Stadium, or the pinnacle of psychedelic metal with Japanese icons Boris at the Social.
Now, I've been listening to GnR ever since Appetite for Destruction, so the prospect of seeing Axl Rose and Slash together on stage for the first time in 23 years is tempting. But even the opportunity to hear "Patience," "November Rain" and "Civil War" in the flesh won't be enough to alter my trajectory on Friday night toward the legitimately eardrum-bleeding, head-pounding, speaker-blowing sonic bliss that Boris will deliver in the Social's intimate space.
To up the ante, Boris plans to perform seminal 2005 album Pink in its entirety. After 10 years of aggressively sludgey doom metal releases, Pink represented Takeshi, Atsuo and Wata's first turn toward more melodic, accessible sounds, mixing shoegaze, ambient and psychedelia. But it was recorded loosely, with the band setting up its own mics and speakers and essentially pressing "record" in their home studio.
"We didn't let the expectations or opinions of anyone other than ourselves intervene," Takeshi told metal blog Invisible Oranges recently. "I was still working my day job, and I'm pretty sure repeatedly after finishing work at 10 p.m. I'd go into the studio for intense jam sessions and recording until 1 a.m. The thrill I got in turn drove the desire to produce."
In the wake of Pink, Boris was finally able to shed those pesky day jobs by touring even more relentlessly, honing their now-legendary live show. Takeshi mastered the double-necked bass-guitar combo, Wata's six-string shreddage reached stratospheric heights and Atsuo earned acclaim as one of metal's most relentless drummers. By locking in with each other, they were able to come out of the cycle surrounding Pink with a clear sense of their own identities and exactly where they wanted to take Boris in the future.
"[Pink was the time] we formulated our own style of style of touring, recording and writing," Takeshi told Invisible Oranges. "We don't let ourselves be captivated by typical methods and just do as we please. Whether the sound quality is good or bad is secondary."
The quality of future albums like Noise, Heavy Rocks and Smile was good enough, however, to attract the attention of The New York Times, NPR and Spin — no small feat for a foreign avant-garde metal band with a tenuous grasp on English (they still use translators when dealing with American press).
Even better, they treated the success surrounding Pink and its immediate predecessors not as laurels to rest on but as inspiration for the future. "In the madness that was Pink, we just got so tired of chasing some kind of cool rock image," Atsuo told Pitchfork way back in 2008. "We were really trying to shed our skin and lose ourselves in hopes of finding originality. We wanted to wipe the slate clean and start anew – but there is a limit to how much skin you can shed."
Which has resulted in another decade of sonic exploration, instrumental experimentation and unfettered metal expression. The rare thing about Boris is that you don't have to be a metal acolyte to appreciate their wide-ranging ability to transcend restrictive genre barriers. And although Takeshi, Atsuo and Wata are self-effacing, downplaying their contributions to a genre they aren't even sure they belong to, they can shake off their trademark Japanese humility from time to time. "If you take the sounds of what may be said to be a used-up old genre and mix it with Boris," Takeshi told Giant Robot last year, "you get a chemical reaction and a different, new sound is born."
Yes, Guns N' Roses achieved such a feat in the late '80s and early '90s — but Boris is still doing it today, minus the exorbitant ticket prices and swirling celebrity drama. Choose wisely on Friday, Orlando.
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