Though they originally formed as a much more straightforward sludge band, Wigan’s Boss Keloid have steadily evolved into something far more interesting and far, far more weird. With 2018’s Melted On The Inch they showcased a knack for gargantuan riffs and vocals reminiscent of walking lumberjack beards, all the while with a progressive slant that embraced the weirder, psychedelic side of the genre. With their upcoming fifth album Family The Smiling Thrush, the band push that sound further, experimenting with texture and sound without losing their metal edge.
Opening first track ‘Orang of Noyn’ - and yes, the band do delight in weirder, nonsensical song titles - immediately introduces odd time signatures and off-kilter drum patterns. It’s initially disorienting but there’s a freeform, almost jazz feel to it. Alex Hurst’s deep croon accompanies this loose, meandering and all the while it gets progressively heavier, before a slow, mind-expanding chorus moment.
The song itself is nearly ten minutes - a bold opening gambit and one that pays off in spades, as it showcases every facet of Boss Keloid’s sound, all the while without sounding jumbled or forced. Bluesy, stoner riffs collide with psychedelic proggy passages, underpinned by Ste Arand’s understated, though no less impactful, drum work and Liam Pendlebury-Green's rumbling basslines that are often felt as much as heard.
First single ‘Gentle Clovis’ follows, and it’s a masterclass in mammoth riffs, euphoric atmosphere and a chorus that can only be described as majestic. It’s not a simple song by any measure, featuring spaced out jams and guitar work that gently evolves through to the culmination of the song in a groove-laden passage.
Tackling themes of inclusion and the collective being greater than the whole, it’s an album that leans towards positivity and uplifting emotions. That’s not to say the band shy away from negative emotion; ‘Smiling Thrush’ was written in the wake of a family member’s passing, and seeks to deal in part with the grief of that moment and how to move forwards. Rather than wallowing in sadness, however, it seeks again to look towards the light and find beauty and meaning with lyrics like “If we don’t love / How can we ever take flight”. Taking a slower approach, it’s an emotionally stirring song that seeks to reach out to those who may need to hear those kind words of encouragement and is all the more special for it.
It’s followed by ‘Cecil Succulent’, which begins with guitar lines shifting like sand dunes in the wind as it gathers momentum. The chorus here is particularly noteworthy as it soars and Hurst bellows “I don’t wanna / No I don’t think I’m gonna / Be part of something / Something that amounts to nothing / I don’t wanna / No I don’t think I’m gonna / Fake a feeling / When the feeling has got no meaning”. It’s a resounding message of not giving up part of yourself for something that only brings you down or isn’t going to enrich your life.
If there’s one thing Boss Keloid are known for, it’s their desire to constantly move forwards, to push their sound in new directions. They’re constantly mining various genres for influence and inclusion and it’s in this constant evolution that they find their voice. Their themes of positivity, inclusion and the uplifting message carried through their lyrics, their wonderfully weird song titles and progressive leanings, as well as the sheer majesty of their songs are the perfect tonic to the last year and a bit of misery and anxiety. Family The Smiling Thrush is a natural evolution in their sound from its predecessor; it preserves their core identity while still finding plenty of new ground to cover and sounds to incorporate and for that, it’s perhaps their finest work - for now.
Family The Smiling Thrush is out June 4th via Ripple Music