Some bands have an undefinable buzz about them. Boss Keloid have it in spades. Even a cursory search on the internet will show the band getting really positive coverage on punk sites, heavy metal sites, prog rock sites, and probably all sorts of sub-genre sites. The band, you would imagine, would be very happy at that. Not only for the coverage it gives them, but as the band is determined not to be pinned down in to any one particular type of music. In its own words, “Boss Keloid are a band driven by a burning need to move forward.”
Hailing from Wigan in Greater Manchester, the band was a part of the stoner/prog underground in the UK but have always felt that need to play outside the box. This has led the band in to a sound that is best described as heavy prog, but retaining elements of heavy metal, psychedelia, and great slabs of monolithic doom rock. Listening to Family The Smiling Thrush, the band’s fifth studio album, the initial response is to the energy and swagger in display. It is crunchingly heavy and thumpingly impactful.
There’s quite a lot more going on though. The instruments sound almost agitated, like they are hyper-sensitised. The interplay of the instruments is impressive, as they seem to mesmerisingly shift focus between each other. The sound is almost relentless and urgent, with drive and determination. It is very multi-layered, perturbed and powerful.
Such unflagging music could become little more than noise with a lack of focus and determined insistence. But the album is textured. The musicians are allowed room to breathe, and while a song like Grendle has a slightly schizoid feel about it, Cecil Succulent is definitely proggier and about as relaxed as anything on display here. The opening track, Orang of Noyn, is as much of a slow burner as is possible here.
No single musician comes to dominate the songs. Without the vibrant drumming, the tetchy interplay of the guitarists and the bass player you feel that the music would not work. Even the baritone vocals seem to enhance the whole rather than leading a narrative or being the star turn when the other musicians calm down for a while.
The songs titles suggest that the band does have a sense of humour though. There’s many a Canterbury-style band that would have been happy to call a tune Cecil Succulent or Smiling Thrush, while the pun of Flatt Controller suggests a knowledge of Thomas The Tank Engine that might be beyond the more dour metalhead.
In the great slew of sound and styles on display here, you can only here brief echoes of other bands. Not that that matters, but it sometimes useful for the potential listener to have that. Once in a while you might here a twist of Rainbow or Deep Purple, mainly for the impetus and propulsion, whilst there are echoes of sludge-like Mastadon once in a while. The band that first came to mind though was the art rock of Tool. But Boss Keloid are a singular band, so close comparisons are not necessarily that accurate. This, then, is a demanding album, unique and uncompromising. It is rewarding with repeat listens, but is interesting from the outset. Boss Keloid have set markers with this album, both for themselves and for others. They have shown other bands that you do not need to stay within the frameworks of a particular type of music and the possible narrowness that might entail. For themselves, the band has laid a marker of intent for what they are and what they aim to achieve. This is a progressive album from a progressive band in the broadest sense of the term, and one easy to throw epithets at.
Orang Of Noyn
Hats The Mandrill
Paul Swarbrick: Guitar
Alex Hurst: Vocals and Guitar
Ste Arands: Drums and Percussion
Liam Pendlebury-Green: Bass
Release Date: 4th June 2021
Label: Ripple Music