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Weed, Riffs And Prog: Boss Keloid Head Into The Unknown

Thursday, 26 April 2018 Written by Guy Hirst

In a little under a decade together, Boss Keloid have earned a good deal of support from the metal community. Having risen up from scene in the northwest of England, the Wigan five piece have performed at Bloodstock and been hotly tipped by Metal Hammer, Kerrang, and Terrorizer. Much of this acclaim is owed to their killer sophomore album, ‘Herb Your Enthusiasm’, which, understandably, turned the heads of stoner-doom enthusiasts across the weedesphere back in 2016.

But it’s never done Boss Keloid justice to pigeonhole them offhandedly, especially now. Their third album, ‘Melted On The Inch’, is a 40 minute outing that has more in common with Om, Mastodon and Herbie Hancock than it does stoner heroes like Bongzilla, Electric Wizard and Sleep. There’s something more progressive at work here than downtuned, snail-paced riffs that worship Black Sabbath.

‘Melted On The Inch’ is every bit the bigger, badder and proggier brother to ‘Herb Your Enthusiasm’ and is unrecognisable from the band’s debut, ‘Calming The Influence Of Teeth.’ But this fresh direction won’t alienate those with an insatiable taste for metal, because Boss Keloid have kept one foot firmly in that camp while creatively leaping into the twilight zone.

“It’s purely gone off on a mad one,” laughs Alex Hurst, the band’s leather-lunged vocalist. “We caught a good vibe and just let loose. We didn’t have any preconceptions of what we needed to do. We didn’t go in to create something heavy. We just trusted our own ears. We love all kinds of music, and if it buzzes our ears I’m sure it’s sure to buzz other people’s.”

It’s clear from the medieval-style synth melody on Chronosiam that this album is going to be a trip. It sounds like an Age of Empires II loading screen repurposed for a rave. But throughout, their riffs are also consistently knotted and interlaced, rivalling the technicality of most lead playing.

Everything follows a predetermined but unpredictable path, and that’s why it's prog. By the time you reach the offbeat reggae guitar on Peykruve, or the totally out of the blue Indian tabla percussion on Jromalih, you have to throw your hands up and admit that this is something you haven’t heard before. Boss Keloid have evolved into something irreplicable.

“I can see why we were categorized as doom in previous albums, but even on ‘Calming The Influence Of Teeth’ and ‘Herb…’, there are proggy elements that come through,” Hurst says. “People thought we sounded like a different band after ‘Herb…’, so it’s the same this time around.”

But it’s likely that this is a direction Boss Keloid will continue in, because the evolution has already paid off. The day after hearing ‘Melted On The Inch’, respected London metal label Holy Roar signed the band, earning them their first deal. And they’re already two songs into the next album, tunes that are equally out to send you tripping.

“Holy Roar have put out stuff for years that we’ve always bought,” Hurst says. “And we’ve followed the label closely. They were a direct choice. They’re basically just musos who run a label, and we’re music lovers that run a band. It’s just perfect working with them.

“We had tonnes of material, that’s why it’s ended up as six songs. We just ended up concentrating it all. We’re always writing, especially our guitarist Paul [Swarbrick], he’s an absolute beast. The whole album was written in our jam room over two years, and that’s where we really did all of our experimenting. Swarbrick would come in with something every week. He must just sit on the toilet and write weird riffs.”

And even weirder song titles. Tarku Shavel, Lokannok. Griffonbrass? They’re all decidedly enigmatic, and are impossible to find meaning in. But one tune, lyrically at least, means a great deal to Hurst. “Peykruve’s about a friend of mine who died a year ago, Leon Murphy,” he says. 

“He was just an inspirational dude in the local Wigan music scene [Bamboo Rampage, the Adjusters]. He lived with a brain tumour for about six years. He just kept going and going and going. One of the lyrics in that song is ‘Positive thinking is the only medication I need,’ which is something he said to me when talking about his chemotherapy. It’s just something that flew out of me when I was writing the lyrics.”

The album sees Hurst take up second guitar, Matthew Milne adopt synths, and the return of producer Chris Fielding, whom Alex credits with helping them achieve the larger scope of sounds heard on the album. “We really picked Chris’s brain, we knew how to utilize him because he’d produced ‘Herb…’, and we knew Skyhammer Studios was awesome. He was a natural choice and he’s a proper gent, and I can’t speak highly enough of him, he was totally onboard with our crazy shit.”

If ‘Herb Your Enthusiasm’ caught the attention of press and fans, ‘Melted On The Inch’ is a landmark and band-defining album. It has the potential to win over a wider metal, rock and prog audience beyond the niche realms of stoner-doom, by virtue of making Boss Keloid different to their contemporaries, labelmates and predecessors.

That is what makes them an exciting band to start following and Hurst, for one, clearly has faith in what they’re doing. “I’m 38 years old now, and you know, I’ve been in bands since I was 16 and this the best thing I’ve ever been involved in,” he says. “I’m 100% happy with it.”

And, though stoner-doom isn’t strictly their bag anymore, one question remains. “Yes,” Hurst laughs. “This was an extremely herby album, throughout the whole process. We know when to use God’s good green to enhance whatever we’re doing.” 

And by the power of God’s good green, it seems to be working.

'Melted On The Inch' is out on April 27 through Holy Roar.

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