Do you ever get frustrated at yourself for not enjoying something? Especially if that thing has all the markings of something you should like? Like say you finally watch that movie all your friends have been recommending and it does nothing for you. Or maybe that TV show that, despite being mentioned in the same breath as some of your favorite shows, totally doesn’t click for you. Well anyways, this was my experience with Boss Keloid’s new album Family The Smiling Thrush.
Family The Smiling Thrush checks all the boxes of an album that I should go crazy for – sludgy, off-kilter riffs, melodic yet gruff vocals, and drumming that manages to be both powerful and agile. Boss Keloid has that originality factor too. While this album could be best labeled as stoner prog, the band bucks the trappings of both those subgenres by sounding like no one else but Boss Keloid. The “for fans of” section of the press release lists “King Crimson, Yes, Neurosis, Elder, Botch, Soundgarden” – all bands I very much adore. It’s a wide array of bands, but all very applicable. I’d throw in the Melvins, Torche, and Moon Tooth as other comparison points. I say the Melvins because of the weird factor and the vocals – albeit Boss Keloid’s Alex Hurst is far more skilled in the vocal department. The band also does that upliftingly heavy thing Torche and Moon Tooth do, but meets somewhere in the middle of the former’s fuzziness and the latter’s technicality. All these comparison points are listed just to show the wide array of potentially amazing aspects to the band’s sound. There are many comparison points to be drawn, but no single one could adequately describe or define this band.
So if it has all of those things I love and more – why haven’t I started gushing about this album yet? Well, mainly because Family The Smiling Thrush is simply overloaded. The riffs meander like a run-on sentence. For every main riff there are several sidebars and footers. The band isn’t comfortable staying still, and while I admire their adventurous spirit and lack of conventional song structures, Boss Keloid’s ambition results in a chaotic ride with nowhere to sink your teeth into. In contrast, the softer moments like on “Smiling Thrush” provide a safe haven for the listener to regain footing, but these moments are quickly swept away in a hurricane of notey riffs. You’d think those would be landmark moments on the album, but there’s so much going on here that by the end of the journey you’re better off using your map as a blindfold than trying to retrace your steps with it.
The endlessly wandering riffage leads to the other reason I couldn’t get into this album – everything blends together. The constant use of octaver pedals, for example, becomes grating after a while. I will say other than the octaver on the guitars, I did really enjoy the album’s production. The rhythm section sounds larger than life, and the vocals sit well in the mix despite everything going on around them. But when the octaver guitars are combined with the only other constant of dissonant, mid-paced odd time signature riffs in drop A, the tracklist all becomes a blur. I’ve removed the “best/worst tracks” section from this review because there doesn’t feel like a point to it. A list of most intriguing and most tedious moments would be more appropriate, as there aren’t any standouts in either direction for best/worst track. Family The Smiling Thrush is a chaotic, creative, abd complex listen, but not in ways I found alluring or engaging upon repeated listens.
Anyways, just because I didn’t enjoy this album doesn’t necessarily mean you won’t. If nothing else, it’s a must-listen for any fan of prog or stoner metal due to the sheer originality on display. I do find it really encouraging to see a ton of hype generated for a band so innovative in a subgenre I love. So to that end, I’m happy to sit on the sidelines frustrated that I’m not able to engage with the otherwise positive fanfare that surrounds Family The Smiling Thrush.
Boss Keloid’s new album Family The Smiling Thrush will be released on June 4th via Ripple Music.
FFO: King Crimson, Elder, Torche, Moon Tooth