Call it a match made in heaven. For its latest full-length album, Japanese doom-metal band Boris teamed up with legendary Japanese guitarist Michio Kurihara, who — in addition to playing guitar for psychedelic rockers Ghost — has been one of the most visible figures in the Japanese experimental rock scene in since the mid-’80s. (Those names might sound like gibberish to most American ears, so just imagine J Mascis jamming with Mastodon.)
Unlike Boris' last collaboration, which was with Sunn O))), Rainbow is downright accessible. Gone are the sprawling, 30-minute-plus atmospheric pieces, layers of feedback sludge and Melvins-inspired riffage. In their place, Boris has substituted calm, even sweet-sounding songs that bear more resemblance to post-rock than metal. Sure, there are tracks like “Sweet No 1” and “Starship Narrator,” where the band revisits the no-frills rock that made Pink an instant classic. But it’s hard not to be taken aback by tracks like “Rainbow” and “You Laughed like a Water Mark,” which are strikingly minimal. Kurihara takes advantage of this newfound space in the mix, delivering myriad buzzsaw-guitar lines.
Whether this new, calmer Boris is Kurihara’s doing is impossible to say. Boris has been taking steps toward the rock mainstream, and this might be the next logical movement. But what’s for sure is that Rainbow is an undeniably successful example of rock ’n’ roll cross-pollination. It’s enough to make anyone turn Japanese.