Boss Keloid – Family the Smiling Thrush Review

There is no sneaking up on us from the bushes this time around; not after the critical success of Melted on the Inch. No, Wigan’s greatest export, Boss Keloid, are going to have to win us over by producing a pretty mean album with all eyes upon them. Their unique brand of hipster prog-stoner-doom was a clinic in quirky obfuscation several years ago, taking many of us by storm. Heck, Melted… was my Number Five album in 2018. Typically the novelty can wear thin between releases, but it seems as though the anticipation for Family the Smiling Thrush has been steadily growing. Can the lads deliver?

In a bold statement, the album’s longest song opens the album. “Orang of Nylon” starts suspiciously like most of the songs from Melted on the Inch did, with an awkward rhythm and a cleanish guitar melody. Vocals come in with a thick rhythm guitar beneath them, but the riff a minute and a half in is monstrous, and the way they augment it throughout the song is stellar. When a nine-minute song flies by, and finishes with a pretty heavy and spectacular flourish, listeners rejoice. “Gentle Clovis” has a similar arrangement, illustrating that the quirkiness of Melted on the Inch is still there, from the complex, awkward, yet hooky riffs to the uplifting and enthusiastic vocals, but it’s more aggressive, and progressive, than before.

If anything, Boss Keloid have gotten heavier on Family the Smiling Thrush. The loss of keyboardist Matthew Milne has been backfilled with layers of guitars, at times adding thick chords beneath the main riffs, at other times augmenting those riffs with inventive interplay. “Hats the Mandrill” is a great example of this, a front-to-back heavier song that anything on Melted… with a great riff and multiple guitar parts. For the most part the band eschews the use of quirky sounds, instead relying on the mind-bending riffs and clever melodies to carry the day. The riff-vocal interplay is at its heaviest on “Flatt Controller,” which closes out the album in stellar fashion, as both guitars and vocals heat up throughout the verses until both are at the melting point.

It’s like there’s some sort of band contest going on here. Paul Swarbrick is like “Okay, here’s my most messed-up riff yet, deal with it,” and Alex Hurst replies with “That all you got? I can throw a vocal melody over that in my sleep!” Then whomever names the songs is like “hold my beer while I activate my random word generator.” But hey, at least this time around Boss Keloid used actual words for the song titles, even if they still baffle us. It would all be a bit too pretentious if it wasn’t so damned fun – and sounded so damned great. The production is full-throated, with every instrument including Hurst’s voice amped up to an almost belligerent level yet all gelling perfectly. If one thing could be improved it would be to cut back on the vast amount of lyrics and give the musicians a bit more time to stretch out and explore, but the truth is it’s hard not to dig what’s going on here.

One other thing will also be true: not everyone will dig Boss Keloid. The riffs, arrangements, melodies, it’s all pretty out there, complex to the point of eating its own tail, especially after back to back full-length repeat listens. Are they one of those “critical darling” bands that regular civilians just don’t get? Why aren’t we taking this space to review power metal? I can’t answer these questions, dear reader; all I can say is that once again Boss Keloid have crafted an album that is a joyous, infectious listen. It’s loaded up on meaty riffs and big vocals, and it’s a blast to play.

Rating: 4.0/5.0
DR: 8 | Format Reviewed: 256kbps mp3
Label: Ripple Music
Websites: |
Release Worldwide: June 4th, 2021

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