Flood by Boris is an album that the vast majority of the world would never even consider listening for one simple reason. It is 70 minutes of the same song. It is indexed on the CD into four tracks, but make no mistake, it is one single song.
It seems like most people don’t have the attention span for a song over 5 minutes, indeed many people would consider a song of such length “epic” and “sprawling”. I myself happen to love long songs, having been listening to plenty of old bands whose music was designed around the limitations of vinyl, with 10 and 20 minute songs a common thing. In 1974 Yes put out Tales From Topographic Oceans, featuring four 20 minute tracks on two discs. They were by no means the first to use this format (Soft Machine’s Third for one) but they were the ones who brought critical disapproval upon the concept of epic, lengthy pieces of rock music and brought about the punk “revolution”. The problem with punk was, for all its immediacy, it lacked ambition and the will to experiment that had characterised the “bloated” prog rock “dinosaurs”.
Boris are one of a wave of bands now that refuse to take sides in this argument, and incorporate both into their music. One album could be filled with hyper-fast punk, and the next with minutes of near-silent soundscaping. Flood is a song that falls squarely in the slow-tempo category of Boris, drawing its influences from psychedelia and prog as well as “classic rock”.
For the first 15 minutes (indexed as track 1), the track consists of several clean guitar lines fed through a delay effect, repeating over and over and over, drifting in and out of phase with one another. The effect is hypnotic, and towards the end, some thundering percussion brings us back down to Earth in preparation for track 2. This is where Flood begins proper, with beautifully soaring ebow work from guitarist Wata, over an unusually restrained backing from Takeshi and Atsuo on bass/guitar and drums respectively. The mood is reflective and calm, and the melodic lead guitar drops in half way through, reinforcing the simple and evocative melody already established. This continues through to an extended fuzzed-out (but still clean) guitar solo full of long sustained notes. Stunning guitar work throughout.
Track 3 begins by dropping down to just the guitar, although it ups the tempo slightly, building some tension that will shortly resolve itself. For the first time in the song, vocals make an appearance. It’s a good thing they’re in Japanese, because there’s no way any English words could live up to the music at this point. There is clearly something coming, but you can’t quite tell what it is because up until this point the band has kept to a restrained pallette of clean melodic guitar tones. Then, the inevitable starts to occur, a huge fuzzy dirty chordal version of the current melody starts to take over. It drops out for a final breath, before, carried in on a reprise of the first track’s rumbling percussion, the fuzzed out doom metal riffs finally strike. A quick but highly effective vocal and then onto a hugely powerful ever-resolving descending doom riff proceeds to flattens every city Earth for ten minutes, slowly disintegrating as it goes, leaving us (or at least myself) in a state of absolute stupor. I’ve heard this album so many times now, but it never fails to knock me for six.
By the onset of track 4, the riff has collapsed under its own massive weight, leaving only its echo repeating on a muddy delayed guitar for a further 5 minutes or so, devolving into a wash of bowed gongs for the final fifteen minutes. This is less enthralling than what went before, but at this point, you grant them the indulgence, and it’s exactly what is needed to wind down from the exertion of part 3.
Okay, I realise that was just a long description of the music on Flood, but there’s not much else to say. It is compositionally a remarkably simple piece, there is little variation from its central threads. With this album there really is no point to do anything but bask in its glorious execution. Unfortunately, most of you out there will never experience the thrill of Flood, being either unwilling or unable to (it is difficult to find a copy of the album – I got mine at a Boris show). Still, there is nothing quite like it, Flood is highly recommended. It’s Floody fantastic! Groan.