November 19th, 2017 | Live reviews

Photos by Joey Tobin Words by Zach Bilson

Taking The Echoplex stage dressed in dark robes and cloaked in smoke, Tokyo’s Boris celebrated their 25th year by asserting themselves Saturday night as the definition of a “cult band.” On top of the liturgical theatrics, there were their fans/followers, lining up for hours beforehand and jamming the front of the stage as soon as the doors opened. But many of their best records have a spiritual, transcendental quality, not to mention their new record Dear, a 90-minute sludge-metal behemoth that dominated their entire set. The title track’s chords droned out for what seemed like eternity-guitarists Wata and Takeshi Ohtani solemnly nodding to each other for cues while drummer Atsuo Mizuno screamed into the void, pausing only momentarily for a cymbal crash or two. It would simply be interesting, maybe even “cool” if it wasn’t for the volume bringing them to My Bloody Valentine levels of intensity. Looking along the front of the crowd, you could see lots of hands pressed to the stage, soaking in the vibrations from the massive wall of Orange amps-even when Wata broke out an accordion or conjured up a field recording, moving in front of the soundsystem would send air whooshing past your face. When the noise abruptly stopped and the band said their goodbyes (a simple “Thanks so much!” from Mizuno), it felt like a weight had been lifted – or dropped on us, to bring us back to earth. Even if you’re not a true believer, Boris’ church is worth dropping into for a hymn or two.

Direct support came from Miami lifers Torche, who brought the catchiest hooks of the night over tightly-dialed stoner rock. Frontman Steve Brooks is still the best in the game at balancing gorgeous vocal melodies with pulverizing riffs, leading tracks like “Annihilation Affair” and “Minions” (from their latest Restarter) to ecstatic heights while the rest of the band headbanged along with the audience. They engaged in some end-of-tour fun when Boris’s Atsuo joined them on drums for set closer “Harmonslaught”, prompting a rush of hopped-up moshers to let loose.

Tokyo cohorts Endon, on the other hand, stood far away from anything “catchy” or “gorgeous,” lurking instead at a light-less intersection of death metal, harsh noise, and performance art. Vocalist Taichi Nagura, previously known for fighting with audience members, has scaled his method down to a mix of anguished screams, tough-guy posturing, and real-deal sobs, writhing around over a combo of blast-beats and sampled noise squalls. (One member strummed a giant contact mic like a guitar-while dancing like a karaoke drunkard.) It was brutal and confrontational, although they didn’t need to clamor for the crowd’s attention-most of us were enraptured from the first note, watching their spasms and contortions with open-mouthed disbelief. (They also had the coolest merch items of the bunch, selling off homemade effect pedals and mics. Most were sold out, of course.)