Boss Keloid – Family The Smiling Thrush (Ripple Music)
With their 2016 breakthrough, Herb Your Enthusiasm, Boss Keloid lit up the UK’s doom and stoner scenes… and ran smoke rings around many of the identikit, NOLA-fried acts emerging in the 2010s.
Boasting titanic riffery, percussive dexterity and thanks to Alex Hurst, a voice sent from the Gods, the Wigan act’s third album was a revelation.
But its driving, multi-hued songs – and overall sense of adventure – hinted that Boss Keloid weren’t going to stay in the same lane for long.
Not for them a career mired in sludge or confined by a stoner straightjacket.
So in 2018 they served up Herb Your Enthusiasm’s follow-up, Melted On The Inch, a lighter, hazier record than its predecessor. The band deftly played with prog and space rock – and delivered gems such as Chronosiam.
Yet looking back, it now feels like a stepping stone on the way to Family The Smiling Thrush…
Boss Keloid find another level
Family The Smiling Thrush is a sonic labyrinth, a twisted maze of mutant rhythms and prismatic fretwork.
It takes you on many paths, often simultaneously, as opening track, Orang of Noyn, demonstrates.
And it never fails to surprise and delight.
Think you have a handle on the lurching, Botch-esque Flatt Controller? Think again, as the song metamorphoses into a star-skimming, doom-prog jam.
Or how about the fascinating Cecil Succulent? Opening up with a funk rock foray, it quickly turns into a planet smashing behemoth, complete with that trademark roaring Keloid chorus. Drifting into calmer waters for a while, the beast then re-emerges in a thunderous eruption of pure power.
Yet for all its experimentalism and complexity, Boss Keloid’s fifth opus is also a soulful, heartfelt record.
And much of that is down to Hurst’s exceptional performance: the frontman has stretched himself yet again and has been afforded plenty of space by producer Chris Fielding.
The results are spine tingling.
And on the likes of Gentle Clovis, his soaring vocals are reminiscent of Eddie Vedder… or even Chris Cornell.
Hurst anchors Family The Smiling Thrush and gives the album its emotional weight. And his gutsy singing interplays beautifully with Paul Swabrick’s celestial guitarwork, which has undergone a startling evolution since the raw, HC-tinged Angular Beef Lesson hit in 2010.
A word of warning: you might not ‘get’ this album on first or second play.
Indeed, Family The Smiling Thrush is so deep it might take months to mine every rich seam.
But keep digging. It will be well worth it.