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Boris is a Japanesemarker musical group, known for their genre-hopping in between and on records. As of 2008, personnel are drummer/vocalist Atsuo, bassist/guitarist/vocalist Takeshi, and guitarist/vocalist Wata. Though rooted mostly in the hard rock and heavy metal genres, Boris music can be wildly diverse and experimental.

Boris take their name from a song on the The Melvins' Bullhead, and released their first album Absolutego on their own label, Fangs Anal Satan. Since then, they have released 17 studio albums (including such acclaimed works as Pink and Heavy Rocks), a number of EPs, 7" singles, and full-length collaborative recordings, on various record labels around the world.


Boris were originally a four-piece, with Nagata on drums. Nagata departed in 1996 leaving Atsuo to take over drumming duties and they have remained a three-piece since.

From their formation, Boris's members have made deliberate efforts to avoid being pigeon-holed, or too strongly associated with any musical style. "Having some kind of preconceived message or theme is very boring to me," noted Atsuo, the band's drummer. "It becomes a crutch. Just say what you want to say."

The band's influences are eclectic, with Sleep, Nick Cave, Nick Drake, Venom, and the Melvins being a few of the more important ones. The group quickly realized that they did not fit in with the Japanese hardcore punk scene that birthed them, though they retain a fondness for the scene and its music.

In Japan, Boris release most of their music on the indie label Inoxia Records. Though relatively unknown in their home country, a recent series of reissues on US label Southern Lord Records has seen their popularity in North America increase dramatically, even gaining them widespread recognition in the mainstream music press. Many of Boris's vinyl releases feature similar artwork for the inner label of the record (pictured). This is a parody of the original Roger Dean artwork that Virgin Records used for many of their releases (seen here).

2005's Pink was met with considerable critical praise and a strong response from music fans when reissued in the US on Southern Lord Records. Blender magazine and SPIN magazine both named it one of 2006's best albums. The album also topped the metal section of Canadianmarker magazine Exclaim's 2006 Reader's Poll, and was in the top 10 of Pitchfork Media's Top 50 Records Of 2006.

Boris's 2006 vinyl-only release, Vein, focused on a sound derived from classic Japanese crust bands, such as Gloom, Confuse, and Gai.

Boris has said in an interview with Pitchfork that after being in a band for so long, "it is easier to write songs now.

Boris is a band that focuses a lot of their time on touring. In an interview, Atsuo said: "That we tour so much and release so many albums, I think it is 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. I think it’s important to see people face to face -- that's why it's so important to go on tour. It’s something very basic to humans that we’ve lost lately."

Boris recently opened for Nine Inch Nails on part of the fall 2008 segment of the Lights in the Sky tour. They also appeared on the avant-garde metal soundtrack to Jim Jarmusch's film The Limits of Control.


Boris began their career as a hardcore punk band before quickly changing to a drone metal group. Their debut album, 1996's Absolutego, clocks in at well over an hour in length, yet features only one "song," essentially a collage of shapeless guitar noise -- with single chords sometimes stretching past the 4-minute mark -- and screamed vocals. Throughout their career, they would continue to dabble in this style; their albums Flood and Feedbacker also consist of single epic-length songs, though typically broken into smaller parts, and their The Thing Which Solomon Overlooked series could be described as being recorded experiments in the drone genre.

However, since about 2000, Boris has become more often seen as an updated version of the blues-rock power trio, influenced heavily by late-'60s and '70s groups such as Motörhead, Blue Cheer, and Cream. Boris first made use of this sound on their album Heavy Rocks, which has since become a fan favorite. This album marked a major shift in tone for Boris; comparing Absolutego to Heavy Rocks, it is as if one were comparing two very different bands.

Boris has collaborated with fellow Japanese musicians Keiji Haino, Michio Kurihara, and Merzbow, as well as the USmarker's Sunn O))).

Another important concept in the band's aesthetic is the idea of "uppercase" and "lowercase" Boris. According to Atsuo, if the band's name appears as "BORIS" on the record cover, the music is a relatively conventional dose of rock or metal. If the name appears as "Boris" or "boris," the music is most likely a more experimental recording.

Regarding their sound, Boris' Atsuo said in an interview: "I think we’ve always just pursued what makes us happy. ‘Doing something new’ is definitely something that’s always on our minds,” says Atsuo.

Instrumental setup

As mentioned, Boris play music in a variety of genres. This dictates that their setup in a live environment be equipped with many different effects pedals and other guitar accessories. Wata uses an E-bow to achieve bow-like sounds or to manipulate feedback; this device is held in the hand, like a pick, but relies on a strong magnetic pull to move the guitar's strings.

Takeshi sometimes plays a double-necked Ibanez SG-style bass/guitar live, which allows him to drone away on the guitar during longer numbers but quickly switch to bass without needing to switch instruments. In recent years, he has exclusively used a Steinberger Spirit double-necked model. Wata uses the Orange cabinets and Matamp heads also favoured by stoner metal groups Sleep and High On Fire; Takeshi uses Sunn and Ampeg bass amps, a trademark of desert rock legends Kyuss, and guitarist Josh Homme.

In the studio, Boris records on analog equipment. They record as much as possible live, with minimal overdubs and as few takes as possible.


The members of the band each go by one name only. However, it has been revealed in recent years that Atsuo's surname is Mizuno, and it is possible that Takeshi's surname is Ohtani, as he was known until 1998. Fans often assume that Atsuo is the leader of the group, but since Atsuo speaks near-fluent English, he may be over-represented in English language interviews and press releases.


Listed below are the major releases from the band. For most collaborations, singles, and splits, see the main article.


Live Albums

Full-lengths (reissues)

With Merzbow

Other Collaborations


External links

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