From the album cover referencing that of Nick Drake‘s Bryter Layter to the unabashed rock’n’roll frenzy contained within, BorisAkuma no Uta is an absolute classic, both within the band’s own (expansive, stellar) discography and the sludge/stoner rock genre at large. No wonder it’s literally called ‘The Devil’s Song‘ – there’s a certain energy and tone to this record that’s hard to pinpoint exactly.

Dom South

Boris have one of the coolest discographies of any band in existence, ranging from recent forays into the classic Japanese hardcore punk style on No back to minimalism on 2001’s Flood. Akuma No Uta is almost unquestionably one of their great albums, and having been released 20 years ago this month, I’m delighted to have an excuse to eulogise about Boris for this month’s A Scene In Retrospect. This album is a classic of the stoner metal genre, yet there is so much more to this album as there always is to a Boris album. This is one of their masterpieces, alongside the aforementioned Flood, the sprawling Pink and the live collaboration Rock Dream with Merzbow, all part of a phenomenal discography.

The introduction for Akuma No Uta is a classic example of Boris’ expertise in swathes of drone and distortion. As the listener it washes over you, overtaking your senses beyond everything else in your environment. Despite the slightly raw production, there is a soothing quality to Boris’ droning metal style. During the full nine-minute version (the original CD release had an alternate take lasting just two minutes), the track’s repetitive riff is allowed to incubate and develop fully, forming alongside the second guitar’s droning melody from the 4-minute mark. The volume builds throughout as synths and chaos swirl into a tower of noise before “Ibitsu” erupts.

Astuo’s overly aggressive drums propel the song around Wata’s immediate squealing bends and high riffs. Takeshi’s driving distorted bass and shouted vocals complete the song, one of Boris’ core sounds. “Ibitsu” is possibly the best example of their pure rock assault in their whole career; even the original 2002 Heavy Rocks doesn’t have quite as big a tune as this. The breakdown into the final drive as Takeshi roars into the solo is about as over the top as they get with the blown out double bass drive as aggressive as Boris had gotten up to this point of their career. In just over three minutes, it’s a clinic in a stoner metal assault with roaring solos, rampaging drums and powerful drums. “Furi” almost feels mid-paced by comparison but balances the pace, with another driving drum appearance by Atsuo, especially in the chorus. Wata’s guitar shines again but is drowned in feedback across much of the song as the raw production gives a lot of character outside of the pure rock aggression.

“Naki Kyoku” is the longest song on the album here and does well to bring the pace back down, with two guitars contemplating where they’ve ended up with careful picked playing. This is just the beginning of a 12-minute jamming, psychedelic opus that centres the album. Wata uses space in the opening of the song, in what is a moderately slow but typically powerful solo, to show off the ease at which she can build power through quite little with style. The raw production takes a back seat as the band jam, the solo continues when Takeshi’s vocals start to soar in the chorus. The pace moves back down with a funky swagger to jam some more, the bass takes a leading role around Atsuo’s more delicate but deliberate drums, giving space to groove before they crank the volume back up. If someone told me it was a live cut from a classic psychedelic band like High Rise I’d believe them, it sounds like they had fun making it as they just let their personality shine through.

“Ano Onna No Onryou” is a fairly straight-forward and mid-paced track does fairly well to balance the album, especially giving some time before we dive into the title track. “Akuma No Uta” starts with that trademark gong, crashing over the speakers, love the gong. The same riff from the introduction rings out again but this time underscored by a bass rumble and an animalistic Atsuo assaulting his snare drum to start the song. Wata kicks the track into life with a simple riff, the whole band dives in and chaos ensues. Takeshi roars, the bass causes a sonic boom while Atsuo’s drums crash around beneath. The amps are turned up to 11, the drums are hit as hard as they can be and Boris finish off the album with as much gusto as they can find.

Across 39 minutes, there are peaks and troughs and compared to most stoner metal albums has much more variations to keep me interested. It has memorable riffs, roaring vocals, raw production, overly aggressive drumming and it bleeds passionate energy. I love this album and I love this band; they’ve delivered so much in so many ways, and this is a microcosm for it being one of their best.

Joe McKenna

I think it’s safe to say that no band can really delve into the dense chasms of doom, drone, and stoner rock quite as empirically as the Japanese sludge lords Boris. With such an extensive back catalogue of music that reads almost like a play book for sonic experimentation, the Japan natives (with origins in Hiroshima, Shisō, and Gifu) have produced countless examples of complexity and creativity through means of minimalist design, alluring psychedelic effects, and astoundingly heavy, feedback-driven riffs.

My gradual interest into sludge and drone doom also meant it was inevitable I was going to come across Boris in one way or another, and I’m glad I did as they opened me up to a new dimension of how such music can be explored and experienced. This was certainly the case when I listened to the band’s more drone and noise infused recordings Amplifier Worship and Absolutego, which do have their Melvins and Sunn 0))) tendencies for sure, yet the band have demonstrated their versatility by expanding beyond the initial doom palette and incorporated elements of psychedelia, ambient, post-rock and stoner doom within their discography as albums like Flood and Pink have conveyed. In fact, the ensemble’s vocalist and bassist Takeshi justifies Boris’ tendency to explore new dimensions to their sound in an interview with Treble Zine in 2020: ‘We wanted to keep exploring new sounds as band…My mind stabilises when we’re producing something new’

Whilst deep listening is sometimes required to really get the most out of Boris’ extensive portfolio of experimental sounds, one album that I always felt did remarkably well in bridging the gap between the band’s heavier sludge and noise stylistic traits with their more ambient and psychedelic leanings is Akuma no Uta. The record starts how it ends: unforgivable pummelling riffs with noise-soaked stoner melodies and trudging, ominous drones throughout. “Introduction” was immediately a tone setter for me with just under 10 minutes of relentless feedback filling the empty spaces with meditative guitar riffs in a whirlwind of distortion and ambient textures added to the piece which carry with them a battle cry of feedback and disorder.

Songs like “Ibistu” and “Furi” are straight up dirty and brash in their expression, they unload a barrage of fury through extremely overdriven guitar hooks and aggressively arrogant vocal chants. This album even showcases Boris’ atmospheric elements very effectively especially in the psychedelic jam track “Naki Kyoku” a 12 minute odyssey of reverberations and hallucinations through the utility of experimental guitar and bass harmonies and minimalist percussive drives.

Experimentation certainly is the main aim for Boris when it comes to songwriting, but for many or their releases the band have preferred to focus predominantly on one of the many facets to their sound and explore the hidden corners within each particular genre. What makes Akuma no Uta stand out is that it embodies the foundational elements of the band’s early sludge/drone amplification and fuses them, through a tube of noise-drenched overload, with spacier ambiences and more common structural features of stoner rock and psychedelia music that still manages to reveal fresh layers of sound.

This is an album that really allowed me to comprehend the supreme level of musicianship and artistry of Boris. it’s a record that appears as arguably one of the band’s more accessible in some regards, that is until you dive further into each of these tracks upon multiple listens when you begin to recognise the intricate nature of Akuma no Uta within every detail there’s markings of homage to extreme musicality.

Dominik Böhmer

Dominik Böhmer

Pretentious? Moi?

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