Contrary to popular belief, not all noise records are created equal, and there are essentially several distinct schools of thought involved in their creation. To start off with, there's the Lou Reed Metal Machine Music school, wherein it almost appears as if there's been no forethought into what's actually being recorded (Reed basically placed two de-tuned guitars in front of amplifiers and recorded the feedback that resulted, then toyed around with the sound waves ). While criticized at the time of its release in 1975, the album can now be viewed in context, and has been viewed as a precursor to both industrial music and later experimental noise projects. Harsh noise like the kind produced by bands such as Whitehouse makes up another noise subgenre. This school of production focuses mainly on assaulting the audience with wave upon wave of sound more or less designed to irritate and disturb the listener, frequently by using very high or very low pitch tones. Of all the noise subgenres, this is the one that probably is the most unacceptible to the untrained listener's ears, as it seems particularly violent and oftentimes "offensive." Lightning Bolt and Hella are two bands who typify "noise rock," in that their recordings and music are somewhat song-like a times, and definitely more compositional than some of the other types of noise. While not for all tastes, noise rock can often cross over into realms that the general listening base can appreciate or at least tolerate.
Finally, we come to the stoner metal/drone school of noise, with Sleep's 1999 Jerusalem (re-released in 2003 as Dopesmoker) being a prime example. This 60-minute track features little more than crushing guitar and bass tones, punishing drumming, and druggy, drawn-out vocals. The entire piece chugs along at a slow, methodical pace, and more or less strives to get the listener into a trance-like state due to its loud volume and repetitive nature. Pre-dating the legendary Sleep record and existing in a similar drugged-out vein, we have Japanese experimental metal group Boris's 1996 debut full-length record Absolutego. Made up of drummer/vocalist Atsuo, along with guitarist Wata and bass player Takeshi who alternate on lead vocals, Boris’s debut effort is made up of nothing more than a 65 minute opening, drone-heavy track and a 7 minute follow-up. Aggressively not for a vast majority of potential listeners, the disc likely would appeal to metal heads and few others, but I think it does have some merits in spite of its quite obvious limitations.
I'll start off by saying that of all of the records and projects I mentioned earlier, Absolutego is probably the heaviest. The title track starts off with a thunderous bass and continues to pile on feedback-drenched guitar parts for the remaining hour. The first twenty minutes or so of the title track is made up of little more than a repeating bass line and noisy guitar licks. Once in a while, there's a drum flourish that fades in and then vanishes, but the basic elements of the track never vary. Just when the listener would think that he's heard all this disc has to offer, by jove, the band changes up the whole formula. Honestly, this record does have more variety than either Reed's or Sleep's take on the straight-up, full-length drone disc. Mind you, for the average listener, this disc would be incredibly repetitive and probably boring, but Boris seem to at least have the audience’s interests in mind at some points. The track "Absolutego" has several distinct "movements" I'll call them for lack of a better term, with the opening build-up section leading into a doom metal section highlighted by crashing percussion, more listener-friendly guitar and bass riffs, and reverb-drenched screams. Following this middle section, the track reverts back to the same sort of feel as the opening section before fading out to several minutes of noisy feedback to close out the track.
It's fairly difficult to really describe, compare or relate music like this to anything else, as there would be little for the listener unfamiliar with this type of music to really latch on to. Boris beat groups such as Sleep and Sunn o))) to the punch with regard to this kind of music, and pretty much established the basic formula used in drone-metal outings. In my mind, Absolutego in some ways is more dynamic than the Sleep record and at least as heavy as that band's Jerusalem or any of the Sunn o))) material. On the other hand, there's a solid fifteen minutes of strictly feedback noise at the end of the track, which seems mostly like filler. I've often said that these drone metal records can cure headaches if one listens to them loud enough, and maybe that's true, but when one fourth of the title track is squelches and squeals, it doesn't really validate my claim.
This album was released in several versions. The initial pressing on the Fangs Anal Satan label (how’s that for a record label name) contains only the title track, but a 2001 re-release on the Southern Lord label has an additional piece, seeming to try and capitalize on the notoriety of Sleep’s “one long song” record. Along with the title track, Southern Lord’s Absolutego release also includes the eight-minute "Dronevil 2," a track which features sound manipulation work with feedback and heavy bass tones. This track isn't song-like in the least, and doesn't really even include any real tones; it's strictly an experimental piece that plays around with sound waves and oscillators, creating percussive “hits” with the tweaked sounds. As such, the piece is kind of interesting, but it doesn't really add much to the disc overall.
I'm not quite sure how or even why to recommend this album, but I think that in the doom/drone genre, Absolutego is pretty decent. If nothing else, it introduces the world to the behemoth of noise and sludge metal that is the band Boris, one of my favorite groups and the band that got me interested in what was happening in the world of metal after I had become disillusioned with the genre (what with all that godawful nu-metal, ya know). This group would go on to further try and annihilate listener's hearing on later albums, but would do so in ways that were more tolerable and maybe even accessible to the average listener. This debut album is easily a love-it or hate-it affair, but I find it enjoyable for what it is, and would recommend it.