Boss Keloid – Herb Your Enthusiasm (Black Bow Records, 08 April 2016)
Well it’s Thursday now, which means it’s almost Friday, which means the weekend is almost here, so I guess that’s a good thing, right? I dunno. I’ve been so tired all week, it’s tough to feel excited about anything. Although — again, tomorrow is Friday, and we’re now finding ourselves coming into what’s traditionally one of the biggest times of the year in terms of new music getting released. Which means a bunch of stuff will be coming out tomorrow (just as it has for the past couple of weeks and will over the next several). So at least there’s that.
I totally missed out on getting anything published here yesterday, due to some super lame crap that kept me busy all day, which means we’re already behind schedule in terms of what I wanted to be able to share with you people this week. So probably it’s about time to quit rambling and get straight to the music, right?
Today what I’ve got for you is the brand-new album by Boss Keloid from Wigan, which is in Greater Manchester County, England. First of all, when you see a name that includes some sort of medical condition (“keloid” is a type of raised scar tissue that can form in places where the skin has experienced a lesion or infection) you’ll probably be expecting some sort of goregrind or brutal death metal. But in fact, these guys are described as “sludge but stoner but doom but… an eclectic mash of riffery, dirge, groove and sway that will leave you feeling heavy, warm and slightly damp in places.”
Furthermore, not only is this new album Herb Your Enthusiasm being released by Black Bow Records, the label owned by Jon Davis (vocalist/guitarist for heavy doom powerhouse Conan, from nearby Liverpool), but Davis also contributes guest vocals to two of the tracks found here, and one of these also features an appearance by Conan bassist/vocalist Chris Fielding (who also engineered the album!) — which surely constitutes some sort of credibility in the realm of sludge/doom.
Listening to the ten songs here (well, nine songs between four and nine minutes each, plus one shorter interlude), one certainly understands where the “sludge/doom” descriptors come from — I mean, just check out the bass-heavy chunky riffs that make up the bulk of the material here, from the very beginning of the first song (“Lung Mountain” — check out the official video below!) and onward. And just glancing through some of the song titles (for example “Axis of Green,” the interlude track “Highatus” — not to mention the album title itself!), as well as the reference to “psychedelics” in “Cone,” the trippy nature of several of these songs (a notable example being “Elegant Odyssey”), it’s also easy to see how the “stoner/psych” tags would be applicable here.
Beyond all that, though, this album tends to twist and distort its stoner/sludge/doom underpinnings in some rather progressive-seeming directions. Not that I’d necessarily refer to this as prog-metal (although it does have some peculiarly-structured moments, such as during “Haarlem Struggle” [which derives its name from the city in Holland, from which Dutch settlers had taken the name for the neighborhood in Manhattan; no idea exactly what the title means or how it relates to a so-called “Harlem Struggle,” which I’ll let you go ahead and Google — just not while you’re at work or on an employer-issued phone or device, please!] where some funky rhythms and quick-changing sections come into play). Rather, within the various other influences and genres that are blended together here, it often sounds like a touch of progressive rock sounds are also thrown into the mix. Later in “Lung Mountain,” for example, and around the middle of “Axis of Green,” there are some intricate, cleaner guitar parts that would fit that description. And in various places (most prominently in the beginnings of the songs “Lung Valley” and “Chabal,” as well as random spots elsewhere) it seems like the way the guitar parts are layered in unison, they create some sort of artificial harmonic or something, that makes it sound like there is also an organ in there somewhere. I’m probably just imagining it, but in my head it sounds like a real bassy, distorted, old Hammond organ, combined with the guitar chords.
Finally, I also wanted to touch on the vocals, and — as long as we’re talking about all the different genres that could describe this band — here’s where I’d also like to mention that I get quite a grunge metal vibe, too. That’s mostly due to the fact that the majority of the vocals here tend to come across as a sort of powerful, bellowed, semi-melodic yelling like you’d often hear from Tad. But in some places the singing sort of takes on the quality and character of an early-career Chris Cornell, except in a lower, baritone range; and here and there even can be slightly reminiscent of Mike Patton. And in addition to strong, well-performed lead vocals, strewn about we also find plenty of dark and foreboding harmonized parts, either in the foreground (vaguely Alice in Chains-ish) or drifting somewhere further back (somewhat like Type O Negative had sometimes used).
In summary, so clearly there are quite a few ways one could describe what Boss Keloid sounds like, but these all merge together into an interesting and enjoyable total package, that I’m sure you’ll find worth taking the time to investigate.
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