Taking that old, musty, dimly lit flight of stairs down into the dark depths of Max Watts on a Friday night always has a certain kind of romantic nostalgia to it. You can almost feel the ghosts in the walls as you make your way down into that dank underbelly of Swanston Street, taking in every stale aroma fighting its way past you into the night air, eyes wide with glee, mind reeling from a flooding of life-old memories. Tonight was no exception as I made my slow stroll downstairs, that all-familiar kick-snare dance from Soundgarden’s ‘The Day I Tried To Live’ filling the air like it was 20 years earlier – and if the related events from the night before didn’t make you feel nostalgic enough, what was to come next was bound to. For in the warm belly of Max Watts this Friday evening, we were to be blessed with a set most of us had waited for over a decade to see, from a band who despite functioning only in the murkiest corners of the music industry have managed to keep themselves together for an astounding 25 years. In that time, they’ve managed to release a staggering 24 studio albums for themselves and an absolute slew of live and collaborative recordings to boot, but tonight, for one night only, Boris would be playing their most heralded album; the big fan favourite, their magnum opus – 2005’s Pink, in full. Just when you thought the ‘full album’ craze was dead and gone, the universe goes ahead and pulls a wildcard as amazing as this on you. What a time to be alive.
First cab off the rank, though, was Perth’s own tech-lords Tangled Thoughts of Leaving, who from the very minute they took the stage made sure they had the crowd’s entire focus. They poured their absolute all into every note they struck from start to finish, making sure to leave everything they brought with them out there on that stage and that really translated. You could feel that they wanted to be there and that they had something to prove – and prove it they did. The musicianship on show was unbelievable; the intense syncopation between the guitar and bass alone was flat-out ridiculous, the pair swinging back and forth between each other with these downright ugly riffs until you begin to feel punch-drunk trying to follow. Everybody was tight as a nut and had passion for days, but the absolute star of the band was without a doubt the lead keyboardist/noisemaker/general vibe distortionist, who has to be one of the most metal keyboardist that I have ever seen in my entire life. Not only did he dominate several keyboards and a whole slew of bells and whistles and hell-makers for the entire duration of the show, he also thrashed around the side of stage like a man possessed, playing part mad conductor with his eyes/head/anything he could indicate with while he stomped and punched away at his keyboards, never once missing a beat. On top of which, he also basically refused to sit down for almost the entire show – and when I did see him take a seat, he lasted roughly thirteen seconds before he boiled over and sent the stool below him flying with a mule kick, diving into full power-stance and head-banging like a one-man Slayer concert. Even if you weren’t particularly taken with Tangled Thoughts of Leaving‘s brand of epic, almost Romanesque prog-noise, there’s a very high chance that you would find yourself very, very taken with this keyboardist. Tonight, he put in the kind of impassioned performance you come away feeling inspired by; like you need to give yourself to something as wholly as that man gave himself to that one brief moment. That’s the kinda thing I come to shows to see. If you get the chance, make a point to catch Tangled Thoughts of Leaving – you won’t leave disappointed.
For a very brief moment again, we return to the Cornell-fest from the sound-desk and rehydrate/gather ourselves/stake our respective gig spaces. Without warning, the house lights drop and a blanket of thick, pink smoke billows out from behind a perfectly Spinal-Tap-esque wall of Orange amps. It rolls into the crowd, leaving those of us close enough to the stage near-blinded in comically dense pink fog. Vague shadows start flickering through the thickness, unidentifiable at first until you see Takeshi’s lanky frame finally adopt his signature double-necked beast and start sending out waves of distortion and reverberation into the mist. Wata appears in tow, joining the slowly building cacophony until finally, our unofficial Master of Ceremonies Atsuo materialises from the back, cutting through the pink in a beautiful, ankle-length black gown, slowly raising the horns to his disciples who absolutely howl with love and adoration, raising their horns right back in salute. Boris have arrived.
As the levels of pink smoke in the room reached the point of potential health risk, those first few absolutely gigantic notes from sludge beast ‘Blackout’ tear through the atmosphere, the weight of the riff alone forcing the floor to collapse from beneath you. Wata‘s heart-wrenchingly beautiful nightmare of a guitar takes you soaring above the chaos like a perfect angel of death before Takeshi‘s banshee wail grabs you by the teeth, skull-dragging you back down into the depths of hell below. The bass. My lord, the brain-rattling bass. You can feel it from your eyeballs right down to the very tips of your toenails. You could feel each bass hit push against your entire physical being; a Boris concert is not only an aural, but also a genuinely physical experience. You will feel it.
And just when you think your chest couldn’t possibly take any more pressure, the heavy, menacing atmosphere of ‘Blackout’ lifts on a dime. Wata‘s lone guitar hammers out that signature opening riff, somebody howls from the back of the room and suddenly, the band explodes into the all-time fan favourite – the title track; the raucous punk-beast ‘Pink’. Buried in layers of smoke forever billowing forth from the stage, Boris uncontrollably slay through the front half of the album, pummeling through ‘Pink’ with blinding intensity before crash tackling straight into ‘Woman on the Screen’ and one-upping themselves again on ‘Nothing Special’, not allowing one singular moment with which to catch your breath in between. The band offer a brief respite in the form of a long-lost and recently released Pink extra-cut, the psychedelic drone mess ‘N.F. Sorrow’, before bombing straight back in with the rock’n’roll monster ‘Pseudo-Bread’ and the self-assured strut of ‘Afterburner’. One more lost Pink cut surfaces in the punishing Heavy Rocksesque ‘Talisman’ before the band dive headlong into the final run of tracks from their seminal album, offering up some seriously savage renditions of the eternal crowd-pleasers ‘Six, Three Times’ and ‘Electric’.
It is at this point in the set, when you begin to feel like your body might not be able to take one more song, where your fillings (and several teeth) have shaken loose and you start to feel bits of your brain fall away like wet cake, that Boris pull out the biggest guns of all – an extended extended version of the entire, already-extended 20-minute cut of Pink‘s final track, the soul-crushing ‘Just Abandoned Myself’. I couldn’t tell you exactly how long they kept that final reverberating passage repeating for at the end, or at what decibel level the band had managed to creep to at that point, but what I can tell you is that the wall of guitars bellowing over the crowd had gotten so loud that you genuinely couldn’t hear Atsuo‘s gong any more – it had completely disappeared below the wall. You could see him hammering it relentlessly, but you couldn’t make out one strike. You know your band is not only loud, but competitively loud, when you can drown out a gong with your guitars – Lemmy would be proud.
Then, as the relentless brutality finally, finally begins to dissipate and your body decides that it won’t take one more song, Boris gently cradles you back to Earth, ending the set with the sublime album opener – the aptly titled ‘Farewell’. Those warm, loving chords enveloped the crowd like a home-knitted blanket, and truthfully, it was so perfect a moment that I could have stayed in that space forever. We all came down together, the band disappearing into the mist again before returning for one more number – the brand new single ‘Absolutego’*. To be honest, though, at that point I had already completely blissed out; I could have been hearing them play some Farnesy and I doubt I would have even noticed. Boris, you beautiful, savage, wonderful motherfuckers – thank you for a show that I’ll never forget.
* Not to be confused with their 1996 album of the same name, 2017’s ‘Absolutego’ is the lead single from Boris’ upcoming album Dear (slated for release 14th July):