Show Review: Boris at The Doug Fir Lounge

Boris is like a slow rolling ball of thunder and lightening. If you are unfamiliar with the group, Boris is a Japanese experimental doom metal band. As they took the stage Monday night, a billow of fog flooded the stage. Lights placed behind guitarist Wata and bassist Takeshi Ohtani streaked through the smoke and set the mood for what would be a doom metal spectacle. When Takeshi Ohatani walked on the stage with his double-neck bass I admit a part of me was wishing we were in for some Spinal Tap-like spectacle but no mini stonehenge was forthcoming. Quite the opposite, it is clear that Boris takes their refined theatrics seriously. The fog and lights all contributed to the feeling that I was witnessing a lightening storm unfold on stage at doom metal speed. That is to say, very slowly.

A lightning storm is not complete without its share of thunder and Boris certainly brought the thunder. Bass guitar and bass drum worked tirelessly to keep your whole body in full vibration for the duration of the performance. Most of the performance flowed seamlessly from one song to the next without a break to let your bones settle. The fog machines were similarly unrelenting. By the last 20 minutes of the show the Doug Fir was so foggy the lights became even more dramatic as they sliced and strobed through the fog to ensure the storm roiled on. At the same time Boris (of course all dressed in black) became harder to see, particularly the the drummer Atsuo Mizuno who was a pleasure to watch as he seemed to be guiding this tempest as it rolled over the audience with his command of the drums, huge gong, and theatrical use of the hand cymbals.

At times the music slowed to a crawl. Then surged forward, vaulting into crescendos of doom metal ecstasy. All the while maintaining a tangible connection with the audience through the unrelenting inescapable vibrations. It was impressive both for its refined spectacle but also for its uniqueness. I have seen my fair share of doom/stoner/sludge metal shows but none like this. Boris is not meditative. The music does not drone or repeat itself enough to lull one’s mind into meditation. At the same time, the vocals contributed to the stormy mood and also severed any developing monotony in the storm as incomprehensible wailes emanated from the stage. It was an impressive performance, one I was glad to experience. I found it to be interesting and exhilarating in portions but also strangely unexciting during other portions.

If you are a fan of doom metal or experimental music I would recommend witnessing Boris for yourself. I enjoyed the portions that were filled with heavy doom riffs but found myself less excited for the experimental, noise, and atmospheric portions of the performance. I take that as an indication of my own personal preference. If you are a lover of both doom metal and experimental music then Boris may just be your perfect storm.

Boris is currently on their 25th anniversary tour promoting their new album entitled Dear.