Boris - Vein (Important Records LP)
So, here it is. After two years of waiting and endless delays, Boris and Important Records have finally unloaded "Vein" upon us. Despite the fact that I'm a huge Boris fan, I'm inclined to hate it right from the get-go...actually I started up with these feelings of hatred when it was announced that the price tag would be somewhere in the field of $36, give or take. $36! For a domestic-issue 37-minute single LP! I'm paying a dollar for every minute of sound that spills out of my speakers! But according to Important, what we're paying for in large part is the complicated packaging. You see this isn't just a picture disc, the images you see on the wax are actually printed on the inside, rather than on top (and I'm no vinyl-pressing pro but I'd think it would be impossible to have a clear vinyl picture disc? Hence the additional sweat and hard work). The record itself comes in a thick plastic sleeve (like the "Solomon" LPs) and inside THAT sleeve are two clear mylar inserts containing landscape (reminiscent of "Earth 2"!) depictions on each which match up with the other one. Hard to explain, but again, it looks very nice. Unfortunately my copy arrived with minor slits on the bottom and one of the sides of the sleeve but that seems to be the case constantly with these plastic LP sleeves. Doesn't make it easier to shake the feeling that I paid $36 for (essentially) damaged goods but I'll trust the Important Records people that it was in tip-top condition when it was placed in the cardboard mailer. And I'll remind myself that nobody had a gun to my head - I bought it of my own volition. That'll make me feel better.
But at this point I'm wondering if "Vein" is just a sociological experiement. See, the album went on sale on October 3rd or thereabouts and it's already sold out from the label. But if you read the label's blurb, you won't find any mention of the actual musical content of the record. And that was one of the biggest questions leading up to its eventual release - what genre are Boris doing this time? Stoner, sludge, doom, drone, shoegaze, post-rock, etc etc etc??? But alas, no answers. So the conclusion one can draw for this is that Important managed to sell out a good portion of the 1,500 copies pressed up without ever mentioning a word about the entire reason people should be buying the record for - the music. Basically what this says is that (a) Boris are master entrepreneurs and (b) Boris fans are ten different kinds of retarded, myself very much included. This could be two sides of Atsuo shaving and Important wouldn't have to answer to anybody because they never said it wasn't an album of Atsuo shaving. Know what I mean, Gene? Lucky for us though that the label and the band aren't that cruel (although 36 clams still isn't easy to forgive, mind you) and "Vein" appears to be a pretty significant entry in the overwhelming Boris discography. It opens with a blast of dissonant guitar noise and quickly curls into a fuzzed-out riff of epic proportions, but rather than blast off into the mesosphere it goes the other direction entirely, dovetailing into a smattering of electronic near-ambience. After that an ominous, pounding doom metal session before some Japanese sample plays and the group kick off their fastest, angriest, punkiest sounding jam ever. Squiggly guitar solos, ungodly stampeding drums and Takeshi's vocals sounding their most ripped and ragged and alcohol-shredded. You know what it reminds me of? Have you ever heard that Swedish metal band Disfear? With Tomas Lindberg (of the Crown, At the Gates, Nightrage, the Great Deceiver, etc.) on vocals? Right. The way they kinda straddle heavy crust-punk and thrash metal. Well, on their "Misanthropic Generation" at least, I haven't heard any others. Damn that album ruled. Anyway that's exactly where "Vein" is at, although with a bit more variance - there's some studio trickery in between tracks with tapes played in reverse, some borderline harsh bits namely around the album's opening and before the last "track" (there's eleven or twelve different ones but play as two long sides) and an all instrumental number that goes for about a minute and still leaves you breathless when it ends. The only respite is at the end of the album where the group delve into a 10-minute (also instrumental) Sabbathian workout and touch on various cornerstones from history like the floaty, spaced drones and fuzz-washes of "Flood" and "Feedbacker". Wata provides the proverbial icing on the cake with a wildly epic, stretching prog solo appearing on and off throughout the track. Kind of the antithesis to what the rest of the album is all about but then again I guess that's the point.
If you're reading this around October 11 and you're fretting because you missed out and you've got $40 burning a hole in your pocket and you've really really gotta have this, don't panic. Important's sold out but they're going to be available soon from Boris' Japanese label/distro Inoxia (whose mailorder service comes extremely highly recommended by the way), various other distros around the country, and from Boris themselves on their upcoming U.S. tour dates. Presumably it'll cost more if you choose to get it from a distro than if you got it from Important directly, but those are lumps that you're just going to have to take. Then again you could also wait for the inevitable reissue because I can just feel it in my bones that 1,500 copies is not going to be enough to do the "scope" of this release justice. Boris have always had their limited edition side thingies but "Vein" feels a lot more like a full blown capital-A Album and I'm sure that's the kind of treatment it'll get somewhere down the road. Which pains me to say. And it also pains me to say that despite the heavy price tag and despite the relative brevity of the album, this is a most critical Boris document, especially if you want to hear them pushing the "Pink" formula to the limit (an album which everybody and their grandfather seemed to love - I mean it was a good album but they've done better people!). Remember when Dylan Carlson described "Absolutego" as "the soundtrack to two snails fucking"? Well "Vein" is like the soundtrack to two cheetahs fucking. While wearing jetpacks. In fast-forward. But man...I really wish it sucked and I could tell you not to waste your money and fuck Boris those scammers but damn I enjoyed this. And I hate myself for it. Somebody break these chains - set me freeeeeee!
Addenum: After I wrote and posted this review, I started hearing rumblings that there may in fact be two different versions of "Vein" - exactly the same packaging, just different music depending on which one you get. If this is in fact the case then I can now kind of understand why Important didn't describe the musical content on their website in the interest of secrecy. Of course, for diehard Boris fans, that just means more back-breaking efforts trying to obtain this supposed "other" version...