Boris & Merbow, Boris & Michio Kurihara, Earth, Earthless, Neurosis, and Bergraven
Reviewed by Austin Powell, Fri., June 15, 2007
In one of their earliest collaborations, two Japanese noise specialists, Boris and Merzbow, launched "Texas Spaceship," an 18-minute magnetic disturbance of feedback and fuzz. Their latest effort to reach stateside audiences, Walrus/Groon (Hydra Head) is yet another extraterrestrial affair. Originally released on Fangs Anal Satan in 2004, "Walrus" uses the Beatles' "I Am the Walrus" as a gateway drug to delirious drone, not unlike Boris' interpretation of the Stooges' "1970," while "Groon" condenses an hourlong movement from the groups' previous collaboration, Sun Baked Snow Cave, into 15 minutes of improvised chaos. On Rainbow (Hydra Head), Boris creates a spectrum of shape-shifting soundscapes, each expanded and enhanced by the electric caress of Michio Kurihara, the godly psych guitarist from White Heaven and Ghost, inducing a picturesque and prismatic experience. Guitarist Dylan Carlson's temporal mirage is twofold on Earth's latest, Hibernaculum (Southern Lord), which reworks three earlier compositions in the vein of 2005's brilliant Hex: Or Printing in the Infernal Method, while the accompanying "Within the Drone" DVD documents the avant-metal pioneer's recent Euro tour. Earthless, in contrast, specializes in otherworldly instrumental jams, not unlike Austin's Tia Carrera. The San Diego-based trio's Rhythms From a Cosmic Sky (Tee Pee) is a nebular concoction of Japanese psych-rock with Seventies blues-based metal expressed through two 20-minute musings and a fried rendition of the Groundhogs' "Cherry Red." Neurosis intensifies with time. Their 10th LP, Given to the Rising (Neurot), again recorded by Steve Albini, may be their heaviest and most complex work to date, transcending 2004's monumental The Eye of Every Storm. Dödsvisioner (Hydra Head), the first sacrificial offering from Sweden's Bergraven, loosely translates as "death visions." With ghostly interludes that move like the wind two minutes to midnight, foreboding and torturous black metal guitar, and Pär's revelatory death rattle vocals, this is bleakness at its very best.