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Boss Keloid – ‘Family The Smiling Thrush’

Boss Keloid are a tricky band to pin down. Are they a doom band? A prog band? Something else entirely? The answer is yes – they’re all of those things and more. In recent years they’ve blended together so many styles that it’s almost impossible to put a single label on them. They’re broadly a […]

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Boss Keloid are a tricky band to pin down. Are they a doom band? A prog band? Something else entirely? The answer is yes – they’re all of those things and more. In recent years they’ve blended together so many styles that it’s almost impossible to put a single label on them. They’re broadly a metal band, for sure, but you barely need to listen to five minutes of their music to know that they’re so, so much more. So it’s difficult to know what to expect when you get your hands on on the latest Boss Keloid record. When you do give ‘Family The Smiling Thrush’ a listen, what you’ll get is the band’s finest work to date; a vast panorama of glorious prog-infused doom, laced with moments of ambient brilliance.

Boss Keloid have always had a progressive edge, but it wasn’t until 2018’s ‘Melted on the Inch’ that their experimentation took centre stage. With that album under their belt, the band’s confidence in leaning even more heavily into expansive soundscapes is clear to see on ‘Family The Smiling Thrush’. Now, the Wigan-based doom rockers seem just as confident creating boundless, atmospheric musical canvases as they do laying down huge riffs and sing-along choruses. They’ve become better at melding together heavier and more melodic parts too, this record sitting together as a cohesive whole much better than its predecessor.

As always, Alex Hurst is a force to be reckoned with on vocals. His bellowed vocal hooks act as a focal point – pulling together complex and intricate instrumentation with soaring melodies. Hurst and Paul Swarbrick are absolutely sublime on guitar duties, their sound always twisting and turning, moving between heavy and ethereal. They rarely stay in one place for too long, always driving forward, always creating more fascinating refrains to enjoy. Liam Pendlebury-Green turns in an inspired performance on bass, while Ste Arands brings the complex sonics to life from behind the drum kit.

The songs on this record are on the longer side, with the shortest clocking in at a shade over five minutes. Opening track ‘Orang of Noyn’ is nine minutes, but Boss Keloid make it feel like four. It’s a slithering beast of a track, beginning with mellow and foreboding sounds, and building towards heavy climaxes. The chorus is absolutely stupendous, showcasing Hurst at his absolute best.

‘Gentle Clovis’ features some of the album’s most stunning acoustic guitar work, and a chorus that could more than hold its own against anything Baroness have put their names to. ‘Smiling Thrush’ is five minutes of joyous, fist pumping metal, punctuated with an acoustic section that wouldn’t sound completely out of place on a country record.

‘Family The Smiling Thrush’ is often at its best when it’s at its softest, and ‘Cecil Succulent’ provides some of the record’s gentlest moments in the intro, before launching into some of its heaviest for most of the rest of the track. It’s impressive how many genres, sounds, and styles Boss Keloid have put on one record without it ever feeling forced or disingenuous. Somehow, they’ve found a way to make it all work.

There’s no band quite like Boss Keloid. While the heavier element of their sound scratches the same itch as bands like Gojira, Mastodon, and Baroness, their own take on the genre is more wild, more untamed than any of those bands. And while they have similarities to proggier metal bands, many of those can’t match the sheer melodic potency that Hurst brings to the choruses on this record. With the might of this record behind them, Boss Keloid can stand toe to toe on quality with many of the biggest names in metal today. Needless to say, this is comfortably one of the best records of 2021 so far.

ASH BEBBINGTON

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