Boris Lee's Palace, Toronto ON, August 11

Boris Lee's Palace, Toronto ON, August 11
Photo: Rick Clifford
There have been a number of albums over the years — from bands like Sunn O))), Torche, High on Fire, Sleep and (more recently) Deafheaven — that have crossed over from the basements of King Buzzo-worshipping, Big Fuzz-stomping stoners and into the collections of people you wouldn't really expect to find at a metal concert. In essence, it's music for the listener who doesn't want to reign in blood, but instead bathe in waves of distortion.
One such album is Pink from Japanese sludge metal mystics Boris. Released in the fall of 2005 and quickly reissued in North America the following year, the 11-track effort became the band's most popular to date, with accolades from the biggest magazines and music blogs and a write-ups in the New York Times to cap it all off. This was metal, it was posited by some critics, for smart people. The condescension of that notion aside, the secret to Pink's success and relevance over a decade later isn't its intelligence, but its so-simple-its-stupid sonic execution; Pink is filled with raw, unflinching, annihilating distortion and not much else.
Fans who expected anything less from the band's Toronto stop as part of Pink's 10th anniversary celebrations had any doubt erased as soon as they looked at the stage and saw the band's wall-to-wall Orange Amplifiers.
As droning feedback led into the band's first selection of the night, the dread-inducing "Blackout," a blanket of fog was unleashed on the crowd, turning the surprisingly cool and comfortable Lee's Palace into a hazy playground for Stephen O'Malley lookalikes to hold their fists high and slam into their fellow disciples of doom.
With so many amps in such a small space, "Pink" and "Woman on the Screen" didn't quite pack the wallop most were expecting, with Atsuo Mizuno's drums and Takeshi Ohtani's vocals fighting for space inside a muddy mix of unrelenting riffs from his double-neck bass/guitar combo and Wata's supersonic six-string shredding. But by "Nothing Special," it seemed like everyone's ears had adjusted, with a modest mosh pit forming near the front.
The sounds from the stage only grew denser and more devastating as the night wore on — hell, even B-sides like "N.F. Sorrow" and "Talisman" came across as even more punishing in concert. Spirits were kept high throughout despite the venue's increasingly sweltering temperatures (by halfway through the set, the venue was a veritable swamp). The band saved the best for last with album closer "Just Abandoned Myself" — a song that answers the question, "What if Lemmy played bass in My Bloody Valentine?" — and album opener "Farewell," a reverb-heavy display of the band's shoegazier side that offered a welcome respite from the evening's cacophony.
Then, proving they still make powerful songs that might even rival the ones found on their most popular album, they performed unreleased numbers "Memento Mori" and "Kilmister" for their encore. It was the perfect reminder that, even though trips down memory lane like this are fun, Boris are still worth following into the future.