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Boris & Merzbow
2R0I2P0 Nick Roseblade , December 9th, 2020 09:51

Sometimes two different things come together so well they feel like they were made to be together. Strawberries and cream. Mozzarella and basil. Pork and sage. Boris and Merzbow, finds Nick Roseblade, are just such a perfect pair

Sometimes you read about an album on paper, especially a collaboration, and you immediately know if it’s going to fly or not. Japanese sludge doom metal band Boris teaming up again with Masami Akita, AKA Merzbow, is a no brainer. The two have worked together off and on since 2002. It’s going to work. What is unexpected is just how well it works. Their releases in the past have been fun, but at times the music wasn’t all that I had hoped for. Yes, it was loud and visceral, but it didn’t quite hit the right spot for me. On their new album 2R0I2P0 (RIP 2020) everything just works. It just does.

The first thing you notice after a first listen to 2R0I2P0 is how complementary everything is. When you get two heavyweights together, as Boris and Akita are, one can try and be the dominate force with the other adding detail to the others broad brush strokes. This isn’t the case here. Both camps appear to be on the same wavelength. When Boris goes big, Akita either joins in or lowers his wall of noise to accentuate their sludge doom.

Take the opening moments of the album. ‘Away From You’ kicks off with fragile guitars and the noise of what sounds like bric-a-brac percussion being tapped. As ‘Away from You’ carries on everything remains sedate and pleasant. Sedate and pleasant were not two words I thought I would be using to describe this album, but that is exactly how 2R0I2P0 starts. Around the halfway point things start to get heavier and more intense. This sudden change in tone doesn’t last long and its back to the melodic rattle that welcomed us. The track ends with Akita rattling his junk table.

This seeps onto ‘To the Beach’. After a minute of atmospherics Boris explode with a searing riff and devastating rhythm section. Instead of joining in with his own wall of noise Akita continues with his delicate sonics. This gives ‘To the Beach’ some unexpected light textures that counterbalance the cataclysmic doom.

So far this isn’t the album I was expecting. Instead we have something far more memorable. As ‘To the Beach’ nears its conclusion Akita starts to sound like the Merzbow of old and unleashes a wall of noise and feedback. This compliments Boris’s music and gives the song the devastating end it deserved.

One of the standout moments on 2R0I2P0 is the cover of the Melvins’ ‘Boris’, the track that gave the band its name. For nine minutes both Boris and Akita sound like they’re having a blast. As well as being a great cover, taking the power from the original and layering noise, feedback, and electronics over the chugging riffs, it is a nice nod to the band’s past. Sounding like the missing link between Black Sabbath and Blue Cheer.

On 2R0I2P0 Boris have delivered one of their strongest albums in years. Everything about it just works. There is a hazy surf vibe that permeates the album. ‘EVOL’ is bursting with positivity and hope. It’s a joy to hear. The melodies are crisp and refreshing. The bass and drums feel as tight as they’re every been. Throughout 2R0I2P0 Akita delivers one of his strongest performances in years. His music has a caustic bite to it. This is what we expect from Akita, but it is also delicate and subtle. Instead of delivering something that sounds like a force twelve storm launching itself from the speakers we are given something that compliments the contributions from Boris. The noisy maelstroms Akita creates either delicately fill the gaps in Boris’s sonic assault or lead the charge instead. There is something charming about hearing him tinker on his junk table.

Boris aren’t a punk or hardcore band. They are at their best when lost in a destructive meandering riff but at seventy-eight minutes the album runs, and feels, a little long. There could be some trimming here and there. It feels like each track could lose a minute or two – except ‘Coma’, which is an utterly flawless exercise in feedback and melody. Overall 2R0I2P0 works incredibly well and shows that the partnership between these two titans still has plenty of gas left in the tank.