November 3, 2010

Boris – Heavy Rocks
hard-rock, stoner-rock, metal

Perhaps the most appropriate album title ever? Heavy Rocks is heavy, and good lord does it ever rock. I’ve always found that Boris are at their best when they keep it relatively simple, putting aside the longform drone and experimental detours so they can focus purely on red-raw guitar-driven power and layers of speaker-destroying bass, delivering explosive, psychedelia-tinged rock music better than pretty much anyone else on the planet. That’s exactly what you get from this album – chunky guitar riffs so crushingly massive they sound like they could level whole buildings, maniacal, rip-roaring percussion and layer upon layer of distortion, all topped off with some truly epic, visceral singing that kicks the adrenaline up to a previously unfelt height. Opening track “Heavy Friends” is an absolute beast of stoner-rock perfection, alternating between Boris - Heavy Rocksgraveyard-bass and gleeful meedly-mees for a murky showcase of sheer attitude, and it’s followed by the one-two punch of “Korosu” and “Dyna-Soar”, easily two of the best rapid-fire rockers the 2000s have to offer. The sonic barrage never really lets up after that – barring the gorgeously soulful instrumental interlude “Soft Edge”, an unexpected highlight – making Heavy Rocks an incredibly consistent joyride from beginning to end. Boris are the kings of larger-than-life rock bliss, and this might well be their finest hour (well, finest 45 minutes, at any rate). I only wish this album wasn’t so damn hard to find!




July 8, 2010

High on Fire – Blessed Black Wings

After I finished listening to this album for the first time, I immediately awarded it a high rating and put it on my “best of the decade” shortlist. Every subsequent listen, I’ve started outHigh on Fire - Blessed Black Wings by second-guessing that initial judgement. I think to myself, “Why did I rate this so highly? I don’t really dig this kind of metal.” Then I get a few tracks further in, and it all becomes clear again – High on Fire deliver a gutsy, technically brilliant, adrenaline pumping rockfest that does so many things exactly right, that any silly, negative genre preconceptions just fade into insignificance. The vocals are arguably the lone chink in the trio’s armour, as Matt Pike’s constant monotone growl sounds consistently ridiculous while never really displaying anything close to what you’d call “range”. It suffices, but never really shines. The sheer, fiery assault delivered by the instruments, though, is another matter entirely. The band display epic power coupled with impressive versatility, alternating between short, sharp bursts of chugga-chugga-chugga riffage that are immediately reminiscent of classic Motohead, and long, bluesy passages in which they allow the guitars to breath for a more spacious sound. Deep down, albums like this one are really all about fun and excess – I can assure you that Blessed Black Wings delivers both in spades.