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Smile, you're on camera. - 84%

Barad_dur, March 12th, 2009

While containing a name that would have been given to the not-so auspicious, unreleased Beach Boys' album (no, the “smile” that was released a few years ago is not the real-deal), Boris has come full-circle. By this I mean that in their entire career they have always managed to keep their audiences interested and surprised while simultaneously pushing the boundaries of what many think rock and metal can do. On Smile, Boris takes all of their previous works and spin them together in a web of psychedelic thrash metal. There is evidence of Absolutego’s epic drone and Pink’s punk stonerisms. Nonetheless Boris have entered another realm altogether with Smile.

Not that this is their best record to date (I leave that title to their collaboration with SunnO))), Altar), but it is by far the most experimental on the part of their metal influences. Interestingly enough, on the “Statement” single from this album, their logo was built to mimic that of VON, which surprised me personally. One can tell on first listen that this band listens to everything they can get their hands on. So first with the cover art, wow, this is some intricate stuff made by none other than Stephen O’Malley of course. This is by far the best artwork for any Boris album to-date. I would say buy the vinyl edition just so you can get a good look at the art, but then again I also spend gobs of money on posters that are completely unnecessary. Ok, so let’s talk about the music that is hidden inside that piece of plastic that record labels convince some of us is worth a good fifteen dollars.

The music on this album is varied. However, it is deeply rooted in thrash metal as I mentioned before, which is a new step for Boris. Secondly Wata has finally defined her guitar sound to the tenth degree. The leads on this album alone would be worth the purchase. An example would be the evolutionary song “You Were Holding an Umbrella” where an extremely emotional lead breaks through some very strong doom riffs. The wah on her solos is crushing and mesmerizing while her riffs pummel you into the ground like a freight train falling on the empire state building. The drums are chaotic and extremely intense but always fit everything very well. The production really bleeds the drums into the mix adequately, making them drone even more than the guitars. One of the few downsides of this album is the vocal delivery. I know for a fact that Takeshi can do A LOT better than this. He’s done great work on albums like Pink, but perhaps for the “psychedelic” atmosphere he has decided to sing out of key. You aren’t in the Ramones; don’t act like you are, because that’s just sad. Perhaps it is their punk influence that has lead to this, but it really detracts from the quality of the music. Also, some of the songs just drag on and on like “Ka Re Ha Te Ta Sa Ki - No One's Grive” which could have been cut down at least two minutes shorter. However this is not the case on the album closer “…” which changes dramatically again and again and keeps the listener very intrigued throughout the entire fifteen minute and twenty-nine second duration. Actually this is probably the most mixed-bag album of Boris’s entire discography. Each song is very different from the last and shows just how intricately this band can express chaos and randomness.

So, should you buy it? Well honestly I would be lying if I told you that you should. There is no way in hell I could anticipate who would like this album and who would not. Even if you have been a long time fan of the band you still might not like it. Not because it is radically different from their previous efforts, but because it’s a somewhat hard to digest album. It’s abrasive even at its most melodic. That is probably due to Takeshi’s horrid tonality while he sings, but nonetheless he doesn’t keep the album from being genuinely good. At first I was considering giving this album a higher score, but that would just be because I really like this band in general. This might be the weakest Boris album, but that’s like saying it’s the oldest second grader. You might vehemently hate this album, or you might love it. It's a piece of interesting art to be appreciated for its occasional originality if nothing else. If you don't like this band, then do not buy this album. I would probably recommend you to download it first and see what you think, then if you're like me, go out and spend money you don't have on something you don't need, just because you like having that album sleeve and a piece of plastic that contains some interesting sounds.