Acoustic Sounds


Heavy Rocks



Label: Third Man Records

Produced By: Boris

Engineered By: Tetsuya Tochigi

Mixed By: Tetsuya Tochigi

Mastered By: Souichirou Nakamura

Lacquers Cut By: Warren Defever

The First "Heavy Rocks" still Rocks

Third Man Records reissues for the first time ever on vinyl Boris's 2002 fuzz metal masterpiece

Being a fan of Japanese Sludge/Doom/Stoner/Drone/Psych/Pop-Metal power trio Boris can be exhausting, especially if you’re a record collector. Since forming in 1992 these industry veterans have racked up 29 full-length studio albums alone, not even including their dozen or so collaborative albums and countless extended plays. Having casually heard this band mentioned by friends who were enthusiasts of punk and metal over the years, sometime in 2012 or 2013 I found myself perusing the shelves of longtime NYC heavy music mecca Generation Records and stumbling across a new Boris album simply called Heavy Rocks.

Being new to the band I asked the store clerk if this was one of their better albums, and his response was something like “It’s good, but the first Heavy Rocks is much better.” Turns out the 2011 album Heavy Rocks is actually a sort of sequel to an album released by Boris a decade earlier in 2002, also called Heavy Rocks. If that wasn’t confusing enough, last year saw the release of another new and different Heavy Rocks. For the sake of simplicity, I will be referring to the other two releases as Heavy Rocks (2011) and Heavy Rocks (2022).

 generation records, new york city, nyc, record storeGeneration Records on Thompson St, New York

The original Heavy Rocks was never released on vinyl, only on CD domestically in Japan, nevertheless it was the first Boris album I was able to digest and really appreciate, building me up to be able to appreciate more esoteric releases like Smile, New Album, and the sprawling Rock Dream. However, in conjunction with their North American co-headlining tour with fellow doom-metal legends Melvins (Boris named themselves after a Melvins song), in which Boris play Heavy Rocks in its entirety, the band has teamed up with Third Man Records to release on vinyl their fuzzed out classic for the first time ever.

Boris, band, japan, wata, takeshi, atsuo,Boris consists of (from left to right): Atsuo- Drums and Vocals, Wata- Guitar, and Takeshi- Bass, Guitar, and Vocals

Heavy Rocks, unlike the rather experimental and drone-metal influenced full-length efforts that came before it, is a stripped-down hard rock album. Well, it’s as stripped-down as Boris get, consisting mostly of driving rock jams in the 3-4 minute range, a far cry from their predilection for 43 minute drumless ambient tunes. In some ways Heavy Rocks plays as a loving tribute to the kind of 70s proto-metal bands to which everyone in heavy music can trace back their lineage—bands like Blue Cheer, Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, and the Jeff Beck Group. The DNA of those bands is certainly found in the guitar and bass riffs on this album, even if the sonic texture and noisy experimentation is decidedly more modern.

Starting with the mid-tempo rocker “Heavy Friends”, from there the album jumps into a 3-track barrage of galloping classic metal riffs and Motorhead style vocals by bassist Takeshi, with “Korosu,” “Dyna-Soar,” and “Wareruraido.” The latter two tracks feature impressive contributions of chaotic textures from Maso Yamazaki on analog synths, and Masami Akita (also known as Merzbow) on “harsh noise” computer-duty respectively. By the final track in the trilogy, guitarist Wata really gets to demonstrate her prowess as well as show off her impressive pedal/amp rig, with a huge soaring guitar sound that few can match. However, it's the start of side B, the down tempo burner “Soft Edge” where the guitar work truly shines. When I saw the band play this number at the Belasco in Los Angeles last month, they really stretched it into a fiery improvisatory session with earth-moving guitar overdrive. By comparison, the studio version sounds rather tame, but on its own, it’s still a warm oasis from the tight, pummeling heavy metal that dominates this album.

boris, bass, double neck, takeshi, guitar, liveBassist Takeshi performing with his signature double-neck Bass/Guitar

Merzbow returns on track 7, “Death Valley” (this album marks the beginning of a frequent collaboration between the two artists) to provide glitchy digital chaos over the band’s Black Sabbath-inspired guitar riffs. You would almost mistake parts of this song for an alternate version of “Paranoid”, but those expectations are broken by unique off-kilter syncopations and quick stylistic turns. By far my favorite track on Heavy Rocks is the opening of side C, “The Bell Tower of a Sign” which switches the mood from classic rock, to a more doom and grunge aesthetic with the band touting their Melvins-influenced sludgy riffs and supernatural guitar wails. This vinyl version of Heavy Rocks features an additional two demo versions of previous album tracks. Are they essential to the presentation of the album?  No, but they’re certainly a welcome addition to round out side D.

Wata, guitar, pedal board, boris, orange amp, les paulGuitarist Wata in the studio with her black 1986 Les Paul Custom

I don’t mean to be hyperbolic when I say that Boris are the single loudest band I have ever seen live, and this has been true every time I’ve seen them from 2014 until now. I particularly remember a drumless drone set they performed one afternoon in Austin at the old End of an Ear records, that made the walls and ceilings of that old building literally shake to a frightening degree. No studio production, and certainly not one produced on the budget available to an indie band like Boris, can possibly capture that raw energy and power, and that’s a sad reality that has borne out with every release by the band. While this new Third Man pressing might not capture the physical force of this trio, it does a great deal to capture the texture and tone.

Guitar and Bass color and effects are rendered nicely here. The drums are certainly a bit distant sounding, but I think this is an intentional effect, and creates a nice washed out reverberant bed for the guitars and bass to play. This is an album that has a sound that is perhaps partially and intentionally low-fi, yet it is still pleasing to listen to, even on a hyper detailed and revealing turntable like the Reed Muse 1C with its tangential tracking 5T tonearm which I currently have on loan. It does not get harsh or glassy when "cranked," something you should definitely do when listening to this album.

Boris record all their albums to analog tape, but obviously, due to budgetary constraints, few are AAA endeavors once they get to the mastering process, and I doubt this new reissue bucks that trend. Still, the album has been remastered for vinyl by Souichirou Nakamura at Peace Studios in Japan, and cut by Warren Defever at Third Man Records in Detroit where it was also pressed. My copy on standard-weight black vinyl was flat and free of pressing defects. For the variant aficionados, there is also an orange vinyl indie-exclusive variant as well as a tour-exclusive transparent orange pressing.

If you’re a Boris fan like myself, chances are you’ve already ordered this reissue as it's considered a core release in their very extensive catalogue. But, if you’ve yet to dip your toes in the fuzz-drenched waters, I can highly recommend Heavy Rocks as a great place to start.

Music Specifications

Catalog No: TMR-778

Pressing Plant: Third Man


Speed/RPM: 33 1/3

Weight: 140 grams

Size: 12"

Channels: Stereo

Presentation: Multi LP


  • 2023-09-21 10:08:54 AM

    Silk Dome Mid wrote:

    Any band that can deal with SIX types of rock has my respect.

  • 2023-09-21 11:32:31 AM

    David Terry wrote:

    The video from which you took that still shot of Wata in her studio talking through her equipment and effects is mind blowing - at least to a non-musician like me who just loves the sound of Boris. They are the master craft of volume, noise and distortion. Thank you for covering them. By the way, they sound absolutely amazing through a Koetsu cartridge. They are loud, but a Sunn O))) show was louder.

  • 2023-09-21 03:38:28 PM

    Anton wrote:

    I love them, but hard as Hell to sing along to. Akuma No Uta is one of the best album covers of all time. Thank you to David Terry for the shout out for Sunn O))))!!! (Exclamation symbols added by me, to avoid any confusion.) Both groups are great listens when in altered states.