In their 30 year history, Boris has only ever expanded outward, and generally excelled at whatever sound they choose to take up. Even the simply-titled Heavy Rocks series refuses to stick to its original formula of a more stripped down, heavy and rocking mode, adding in a lot of their drone and shoegaze influences on the second installment in 2011.
The whole thing kicks off with a very enthusiastic “YEAH!” as “She Is Burning” brings on fuzzy punk, honking sax, and enough energy to power the Las Vegas strip for a year. It also sets a tone in terms of how the album is both extremely tight and yet loose, with everything held together not just by Atsuo’s rock solid kit pounding but also the feeling that everyone is free to have some fun with bits of improvisation. A bit of a freakout lead here; a brief bass solo there; a whole bunch of unplanned shouts and screams and jubilation all over the place.
And man, that energy is just undeniable. Most tunes sparkle like a livewire, with Atsuo shifting between rolling heft and d-beat drive, Wata’s and Takeshi’s riffs moving between everything from trad metal (“Ruins”) and straightforward punk to layered, psyched out passages and even hints of surf rock (“Cramper”). The vocals ‒ mostly delivered by Atsuo and Takeshi ‒ also run a full gamut, from their typically punky singing to gang shouts and even near-death growls on the pulsating and industrial “Ghostly Imagination,” a tune that also offers a big dip into HEAVY doom at one point. “Question 1” likewise offers a crucial change of pace in the middle, offering a lush shoegaze passage between bookends of aggressive but melodic and hooky metal.
A few key tunes spend their entire lengths changing up the pace, both in terms of melody and mood, while offering the record’s most experimental moments. “Nosferatou” is almost no wave in its drum and riff minimalism and has the nuttiest, honkiest sax parts, but is offset with true beauty thanks to some ghostly vocals and distant piano. “(Not) Last Song,” meanwhile, is the album’s biggest curveball. Almost entirely based around a simple but evolving piano motif, the song also contains hints of glitch and distant noise, all while a desperate, impassioned vocal performance plays out. Silence eventually comes suddenly, giving the record a surprising and rather harrowing finale after all that rambunctious rocking.
It’s a testament to Boris’ supreme talents as a band that they can make an album so deep that nevertheless still manages to fully live up to its title. Heavy Rocks 2022 is yet another triumph in a career of extremely diverse triumphs. More than that, it’s hard to remember a time when Boris was this purely thunderous while still showing a mastery of so many rock and metal styles that can often be easy to miss. It’s definitely easy to take it all for granted, but one gets the impression that Boris is okay with listeners not trying to identify every influence in play here. Get up and move your asses, heads, arms, legs, knees, fingers, toes, shoulders, backs, everything. Boris demands your attention, please.