The name says it all. Vein is violent and visceral. Flood is powerful, torrential. Feedbacker is certainly full of feedback. Even Pink works... well, almost. Japanese noise-drone-rock triumvirate Boris have a way of creating titles for their albums that sum up the music within using only a word or two. Amplifier Worship is certainly not an exception. With this kind of music, the amp is as much an instrument as the guitar, and over the course of its 64 minutes, the album becomes less a piece of music and more a wild, terrifying religious experience.
Amplifier Worship has only five tracks, though the album is long even for a full-length release. There are numerous Boris albums that hold only one piece of music, either as one one unbroken track (Absolutego, Sun Baked Snow Cave) or broken up into parts (Feedbacker, Flood). Amplifier Worship's five tracks are separate songs. There is an element of blending, but no more than is usually present in post-rock or other genres. For instance, the first track dissolves into a metallic hum that continues on into the second track. It's not a direct continuation, but rather a method of blurring the edges, smoothly leading the listener over the gap between songs.
The album is drone doom metal, and stays mostly faithful to that label. Unlike some other Boris albums, this is drone doom with the doom emphasized, not the drone. Rather than gossamer webs of layered buzzing feedback, this is something blunt, dark, and heavy. The atmosphere is something like being in the jungle, alone, for the first time in your life, in the middle of the night. There are some moments that will seem quiet and pleasant, as if everything has settled down, but those are the times you have to be most on your guard. The songs' considerable lengths afford them the ability to lull and lure listeners into calming hypnosis, sometimes only to swing a sledgehammer at them the instant their eyes droop. Overall it's not a terribly innovative album, but it is impressive when it's playing, and should be considered necessary listening for drone doom followers and Boris completists.
Amplifier Worship is probably the heaviest music Boris has ever done, so when I say it's necessary listening for completists, I don't mean it is for completists only. It just teeters at the edge of accessibility, so people who have heard such formless Boris albums like Dronevil or The Thing Which Solomon Overlooked and only came away confused will have a better time with this one. Conversely, if one has heard some of Boris' rock-oriented albums (Smile, Pink, Heavy Rocks) and is looking for more of an adventurous listening experience, Amplifier Worship is the most megalithic of entry points to that dark place.
Huge is a true drone doom song. The growling guitars drop in from nowhere, and lay waste to everything. Ziggurats of smoke rise from the roiling, crumbling debris. There are limited vocals, thickly spat out in ragged Japanese, that bitterly punctuate the oppressive, suffocating guitars. Eventually, they fade into Ganbou-ki, which starts off as a distant mechanical grinding sound over a golden hum. The guitar here, once it fades in, is a simplistic trance-inducing pounding. Somewhere in the middle, it drops out into a quiet wail as tribal drums play lightly and a rolling bass groove levels the ground. The transition is drawn out, so it takes repeated listens or steady concentration to notice it happening. Around the 13 minute mark, the song fades out into nearly nothing, and again, it is easy to overlook this. At the very moment before there is complete silence, when you are nearly asleep, that bass line and all that wailing feedback swells up again and ends the song in a frantic seizure. Huge and Ganbou-ki are the strongest parts of the album, and it took me a long time to warm up to the rest of it. Hama continues in the established mood, but with a quick, almost punkish shouting and a careening, wobbly bass. Kuruimizu is a fantastic bit of drone that starts heavy and surly, but slowly disintegrates into a gentle rippling. Vomitself ends the album in minimalist, Earth-style drone, and I'm almost sure the vocals are a deliberate reference to King Buzzo's trademark bellowing.
Amplifier Worship is the title and a good description, but it is also a warning. This is a classic album in its specific niche, but if "amplifier worship" is not something you generally practice in your listening activities, you may find this work foreign, alienating, and hard on the ears. For those who listen to what some hesitate to even call music, these qualities are sought after and appreciated. Amplifier Worship is strange and foreign, and can be positively painful to listen to at times. All this contributes to the overall aim: to terrify and awe. Bow down before it.
Amplifier Worship - Boris - 1998 - Mangrove/Southern Lord