BORIS: AKUMA-NO UTA (2003)
1) Introduction; 2) Ibitsu; 3) Furi; 4) Naki Kyoku; 5) Ano Onna-no Onryu; 6) Akuma-no Uta.
So, may you ask, what may be the hidden meaning behind making the album's front sleeve into a transparent imitation of Nick Drake's Bryter Layter, with Takeshi and his double-neck replacing Nick and his acoustic? My guess is that not only is there no hidden meaning, but there is simply no meaning, period. They just liked the cover, and wanted to have one just like it. Alternately, you might think that the symbolism of the action is precisely in the fact that it is hard to think of two more dissimilar albums, in just about everything, than Nick Drake's Bryter Layter and Boris' Akuma-no Uta. So you have the full spectrum of possibilities where you have one at the utmost left end of the axis and the other at the utmost right, and they come around full circle and one opposite becomes the other in a symbolic visual merger...
...nah, they probably just loved the shoes. (Although I wouldn't be surprised if somewhere deep in this mess they actually hid some brief musical quotation from Nick's textbook, transposed to sludgy electric guitar — you never can tell with these whackos). Also, for that matter the original album cover was different: white surface with a minimalistically sketched silly four-legged bug in the top right angle. Not that any of this matters in the least, but such is the price of weirdness: make yourself too weird and your listeners will never really know what does matter and what absolutely does not.
Anyway, finally arriving at the music, the two obvious — in my understanding — virtues of the album is that it is short, and that it has a good balance of slowness and speed. Conspiring against them are the two equally obvious shortcomings: the album does not reveal any progression over Heavy Rocks, and the album's melodies are on the expected usual level of boredom. Once again, other than Wata's bonecrushing guitar tones, almost everything sounds like a hastily produced amalgamation of elements from Sabbath, Rush, and, this time around, perhaps also Can — the longest track on the record, ʽNaki Kyokuʼ, in certain parts sounds heavily influenced by the classic jam style of Can (which, after all, is only natural if one remembers the Japanese origins of Can's most classic vocalist). It is not so much the vocals, though, on that track that sound uncannily-Cannily, but rather the drums — Atsuo's complex, steady, unflinchingly executed drum pattern is eerily reminiscent of Jaki Liebezeit. Not that it helps all that much.
The title track, which closes the album, is probably supposed to represent the climax of its Ominous Evilishness — it ain't called The Demon's Song for nothing, right? (Amusingly, the word Akuma ʽevil demonʼ, when re-transcribed to its modern day Chinese equivalent, will be latinized as Emo — not that I have any idea why I mentioned that). But in reality, it is simply four minutes of sludge taken at two different tempos. For the first two minutes, you tread through the sludge, cursing everything in your path, and then for the next two minutes the sludge treads over you, so that you never get the idea to badmouth sludge again. This particular demon is sure a messy, dirty, drippy one, but not in the least scary — more like a local trickster, perfectly content to merely fling its own faeces at you from behind a tree.
Uh... what else to say? No idea, really. Last time I checked Pitchforkmedia to get an alternate informed opinion on the album, all I got was «charging, smoke-filled, and raw» (you betcha), «fuzzy riffs and heavy rhythms» (you don't say!), «deployed in long, shivering drones or fiery, chugging blasts» (too true, too true, except that I wouldn't describe any of these drones as «shivering» — how can something so thick and so deep be «shivering»?). Aye, this is Boris, all right, but is this specifically Akuma-no Uta? These descriptions are applicable to the vast majority of this band's output. This album's specificity seems to be stored largely in its front sleeve. At best, ʽNaki Kyokuʼ, with its soft, arpeggiated (but rather typically doom-metal) intro and Can-style beats, might have half a face of its own. At worst, all is forgiven if you are a major fan of the Boris crunch — then you'll be only too happy to swallow whatever it is they have just crunched for your enjoyment.