In their nearly three-decades-long career, the experimental Japanese trio Boris has come to be known as much for their prolific output as for their ever-shifting musical directions. While the band’s discography stays in the vein of their signature droning metal, harsh noise, and doom, no two albums sound alike with Takeshi, Wata, and Atsuo exploring sub-genre flirtations with grunge, sludge metal, psych rock, punk, and shoegaze—even branching into high-energy pop electronica. Flood, Boris’ third studio album was the one that marked the band’s first major departure in sound, a rigidly minimal 70 minutes that took influence from Steve Reich and weaved in elements of prog and slowcore. Originally released exclusively on CD in 2000, Flood received little critical recognition and has since become a cult classic—regarded as one of the band’s deep-cut rarities, though nonetheless essential for understanding their overall oeuvre and genre-defying experimentations that would appear in the years to come.
This month is a fitting time for Flood’s long-awaited vinyl reissue, as it will be released alongside 2020’s No, with Flood’s soothing simplicity balancing out the fast, hardcore, and critically lauded new album. In No, we see Boris at their must punk. Recorded during the pandemic on tour hiatus, the album was meant to redirect the anger and uncertainty of the moment through “extreme healing music”—songs characterized by their brevity, breakneck speed, and overpowering volume. Boris’s own necessity for an album like No doesn’t come as a surprise to fans familiar with the crucial role live shows have played for the band’s artistic process. In a 2016 interview with Prefix Magazine, Atsuo went on to explain that touring (especially with their constant release of new music) was “representative of what we’re about. Direct communication is something we’ve lost in this day and age. It’s a shame even interviews are over the phone.”
Similarly, Flood achieved healing qualities through a build up of tension and release, in what can be considered a sonic narrative. A conceptual album that slowly lulls you into a sense of impending doom, Flood is a single one-hour-and-10-minute song divided into four chapters. “Flood I” begins with one pretty guitar riff, looped, delayed, layered, and toyed with for 14 minutes—the soothing prelude to the storm. These instrumental elements are sustained into and throughout “Flood II.” A simple drumbeat, free-form guitar solos, and calculative disruptions of high-pitched notes are added to the track, and reverb seeps in until it’s drenched whole, progressively becoming louder and ending in a jarring thud. The interlude is relentlessly drawn-out and leaves more to be desired, though the album’s climax is reached in “Flood III.”
This ambiance gives way to annihilation. Feedback grows more distorted and abrasive, drowning out the soft overture until it crescendos into a tidal wave. Bass drums become heavier, vocals kick in, and metal riffs thrash us around for ten minutes until the soundscape of “Flood IV” returns to a placidity. The ending is nearly ambient, save for the ominous baseline buried under fuzzy reverb, steadily pulling through the last stretch of the album. Now, we’re in the storm’s aftermath. It’s a repetitive coda, though not as relentless as “Flood I,” and ultimately, it’s hard to deny the closure and catharsis the album ends on—a chance to recover and meditate on the havoc that has just passed. The surroundings may have been destroyed, but we’re still here.