Boris - Amplifier Worship
Mangrove
Sludgy Drone Doom
5 songs (65 Mins)
Release year: 1998
Boris
Reviewed by Dee
Archive review

Boris are a trio from Japan who experiment with different styles of doom metal, and often collaborate with noise artists such as the living legend Merzbow to bring a harsh, droning edge to their sound. Their previous album, Absolutego, consisted of one overwhelming 65 minute drone piece; this time, they have refined their ideas into five long tracks, all of which vary significantly from each other.

"Huge" is the first cut of the album, and their sound is just that. After a short looped vocal sample, a thick crunchy guitar sound eminates from your speakers, using up all the air in the room. The tone is very similar to that of the Melvin's signature sound, and indeed, Boris take their name from a Melvins track of the same name. Guitar and bass play simultaneously, cycling through a slightly funereal sequence of notes, behind which disconcerting sounds insidiously build into a wall of noise. At around 4:30, vocals enter strikingly with a harsh scream, accompanied by drums which pick their moment, pounding on significant notes rather than playing anything approaching a pattern. The vocals depart at 6:30, as I expected; vocals are not the emphasis of Boris' music. Instead, the riff morphs into something of a sludgy stoner groove and plays until the conclusion of the song, which is simply half a minute of guitar buzzing. A very off-beat opener which should appeal to fans of the Melvins.

"Ganbow-Ki" is next, although there is no gap between tracks; the buzzing continues while a subtle bass riff is repeated in the distance until the band reunites, playing as leadenly as possible. The drums seem to be the lead instrument here. Vocals enter at 2:45 and remind me instantly of the funeral-prog band Esoteric; slow tortured vocals backed by wailing, atonal and wordless voices in the background. The drums almost drop away and you don't notice, as this segment is hypnotising indeed! The music slothfully plods along with a doom factor that most bands are unable to achieve, until around 5:45, at which point things get.. interesting. The guitar drops away entirely, only contributing a few feedback wails. This leaves the bass to seductively slide over the snare-heavy drum tattoo, sounding a lot like the revving of a motorcycle engine. The percussion begins to layer in proportion with the angular feedback arcs. The bass "riff" and the drum pattern changes several times during this lengthy instrumental section, but maintains its feel. To me, this whole song sounds like a person taking a long drive through the various suburbs of a city, bookended by the disagreeable feeling of waking up from not enough sleep and arriving at the workplace which you hate. To create such a lengthy song (almost sixteen minutes in all) that maintains a depressive atmosphere while varying so much structurally is a difficult balancing act; Ganbow-Ki is certainly the compositional highlight of this album, and allows each member of the band to comfortably show off their talents without entirely focusing on one musician.

"Hama" opens with some strange, cricket-like chirping, and then surprises you with some grinding rocky sludge. Vocals enter before long, which is strange for a Boris song, although this is the shortest cut on the album at seven and a half minutes. The clean vocals are actually quite charming, mostly avoiding the "japanese men can't sing" stereotype. Before long, everything drops away into a bass-driven groove. Although similar to the progression in Ganbow-Ki, the focus of this track is repetition; this section is held for around four minutes, slowly building up layer by layer into what could be a respectable crescendo. Instead, vocals are simply reintroduced, which I found quite brilliant, although others might be disappointed by such a musical trick. The track ends the same way as it started; with tight sludge-rock and a convincing drum outro.

"Kuruimizu" opens immediately, maintaining the muddy heaviness with some simple riffs. The first one and a half minutes of this track feel a lot like a simple crust-punk song, complete with a minor guitar solo. However, we're not fooled; this track stretches to almost fifteen minutes, and before long the structure of the song is morphing into something much more ominous. The chord sequence here sounds like it would make a great black metal song, but it doesn't go in that direction; the pressure is slowly removed rather than applied, dropping the song down into minimalistic repetition, and eventually into something that sounds a lot like post-rock. Once you recognize this, you can settle back and let the beauty (which Hama denied you) finally wash over you. The bass is still playing the root of the chord sequence from earlier, which is a nice touch, leaving Wata free to weave a touching, melodic and above all, lengthy guitar line into the song, in a pleasing tone that's awash with echo but still sounds precariously close to becoming atonal and hijacking the song; a curious effect which prevents you from relaxing entirely. Oddly, you still don't really get a crescendo, although one is suggested; the music fades, leaving a bassy drone which is entirely at odds with what you just heard. Heartbreaking, really.

Doubly so, as this is where the album should really have ended.

"Vomitself" opens with a slow, crunching bass-riff, downtuned so low that it's practically underground. Another brief burst of vocal activity surfaces here, just to keep you on your toes, but soon departs, leaving the guitar and bass to harmonize with eachother. At 3:00 you notice that there are still no drums, and the dreadful realization hits you; this is a dedicated drone piece. The Earth and Sunn O))) comparisons are obvious, although Boris manages to outdo both of those bands; indeed, the last eleven minutes of this "song" are nothing but the same note repeated ad nauseum, and if you discount the faint, spacy sound effects beneath the dirge, only the interval of the pulse differs.

Overall then, this album contains four masterful doom pieces, each with compelling themes and differing emphasis. It also contains a seventeen minute dronefest which to me makes no sense in context with the rest of the album. The beauty of Kuruimizu would have made a perfect album closer, and is so touching that its legacy stays with you far past its conclusion, and undermines Vomitself entirely.

If this sounds good to you but the prospect of Vomitself is scaring you away, try to find their "Akuma no Uta" album; it's more up-tempo, and the drone pieces are shorter, and overall has more of a Sabbath influence. Thanks to the last track, I can't recommend Amplifier Worship to anyone who is not already experienced with drone.

Killing Songs :
Ganbow-Ki, Kuruimizu
Dee quoted 77 / 100
Other albums by Boris that we have reviewed:
Boris - Smile reviewed by James and quoted 87 / 100
Boris - Absolutego reviewed by Goat and quoted 95 / 100
Boris - Pink reviewed by Adam and quoted 93 / 100
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