BORIS: FLOOD (2000)
1) Flood I; 2) Flood II; 3) Flood III; 4) Flood IV.
Guess they couldn't do it like that in the old days of shellac, could they? Flood goes on for 70 minutes, pretty much the equivalent of two complete old school LPs, yet its four tracks are nothing like the four sides of, say, Tales From Topographic Oceans — Yes probably have more chord changes in five minutes of any single one of those tracks than Wata and her associates have on the entire album. Incidentally, both albums refer in their titles to huge masses of water, but there the similarity ends and the difference begins: Yes explore the shimmering variety of life forms and chemical compounds that constitute the ocean, whereas Boris are more interested in the uniform mass of the flood, regardless of whether the listener is observing the flood from a safe distance or is being dragged down to the bottom.
The major departure from earlier Boris is that on Flood, the band's monotonousness is expanded in range, and now, in addition to the already familiar tsunami waves of monster feedback, they offer us a softer, more hypnotic side of themselves. In fact, the distorted feedback does not even make a proper appearance until well into the third part of the suite — and is then almost fully absent from the fourth. This could be surprising given the album's title, but if you really want to treat it as a concept album about a literal or an allegorical «flood», you will just have to admit that the «flood» is taken in context. There's the prelude to the deluge (parts 1 and 2), the catastrophe itself (part 3), and the aftermath (part 4).
Both parts of the prelude, I must say, sound suspiciously Crimsonian: ʽFlood Iʼ, which consists mostly of one guitar riff, looped, delayed, and echoed for fourteen minutes, evokes memories of Discipline-era experimentation, while ʽFlood IIʼ, with its slow, atmospheric droning and free-form soloing based on high-pitched sustained notes all around, could have easily fit on Red, although even Robert Fripp would probably not dare subject his listeners to thirteen minutes of such rigid, rigorous minimalism (for one thing, it would not be consistent with his guitar-playing ego). Neither of the two movements triggers any specific «water» associations all by itself, but there is definitely some sense of impending doom at the end of ʽFlood Iʼ, when Atsuo comes in with an echo-laden, ear-shattering war drum onslaught — and throughout ʽFlood IIʼ, much of which flows by in a melancholic mood, eventually resolving into a rather tragic-sounding solo, just like the ones old Uncle Robert used to churn out.
Traditional territory is revisited on the third part — this is where, after a brief folksy drone intro (further decorated with a soothing Japanese vocal part from Takeshi), the distorted feedback (aka «the flood» in question) slowly begins to catch up with the listener: I actually like how it appears completely out of nowhere around the five minute mark, grows in power, takes about a couple of minutes to completely drown out the quiet melody — then unexpectedly disappears to let the folksy part gracefully flow to an end, and then finally takes over in one dramatic crescendo. The rest of the third part is given over to violence and destruction, as a trademark «Iommi Was Here» Wata riff swallows up everything to be swallowed. And I almost literally mean everything: the final part, ʽFlood IVʼ, basically consists of a faded bass «echo» of the main riff for its first six or seven minutes, while the rest is just a series of «swoosh - swoosh» patterns, symbolizing that nothing remains except for some giant water vortex, one that would be happy to suck in anything that moves and drag it into the depths, except there's nothing more left to suck in.
In other words, as a conceptual minimalistic suite, Flood makes more sense than anything Boris had released prior to that. But as an album to be enjoyed sensually, bypassing the old ratio? Well, one thing I can definitely vouch for is that Flood is their first record to deliberately avoid any moments of sheer sonic torture — there is no scraping-bleeding «metallic feedback» here, and even the loudest and growliest part of the album has a strangely melodic aura to it. Also, all four parts pursue different physiological purposes — ʽFlood Iʼ makes you dizzy, ʽFlood IIʼ rocks you to wary sleep, ʽFlood IIIʼ sends you down and under, and ʽFlood IVʼ gives you twenty minutes to recuperate and recover.
Are these immense lengths justified? I guess the only way to really find out would be to condense them manually and see what happens. As usual, sometimes for a repetitive groove to have the proper effect, said groove must be repeated fifty times in a row, and with Boris, you either take this repetitiveness for granted or you just leave the band alone as it is. It is not the repetitiveness of the music that bugs me — it is the overall Nipponic «grotesquery» of the band as such. But within that grotesque world of theirs, Flood occupies a position of honor. Not only must it have taken them more than five minutes to come up with the basic structure and melodic content of the album (as opposed to the two preceding and quite a few succeeding records), but for the first time here, they have demonstrated that they are more than a one-trick pony, and perhaps deserve to be taken somewhat seriously by the community at large. Thumbs up.