The word “prog” is very much overused in rock and metal reviews these days, and I find myself guilty of labeling everything as such. A time signature shying away from the typical 4/4? A little venture into polyrhythm? A brave and unexpected chords progression? And here I am screaming: PROG! But still, there’s no denying that BOSS KELOID have delivered a sheer tribute to 70’s progressive hard rock with “Family The Smiling Thrush”.
Aside from those trademark elements, Magma and Hawkwind descendants must embrace a certain aesthetic: the smooth lead guitars, complex arrangements, never outdated drums, 12-string guitars, melodic and sophisticated vocals with opera-like moments, long and intricate songs, concept albums, old school production, and vintage keyboards. That’s the full progressive hard rock legacy right here.
With “Family the Smiling Thrush”, Boss Keloid deliver a very solid tribute to the genre. The album feels as over the top, pretentious and ambitious as the pioneer prog bands before them, while also being very honest and uninhibited. Only a few crushing riffs, fuzzy bits and fiery vocals here and there remind us that the band members have gone through the 80s, 90s and 00s eras, and shook all that to create their own vision of Prog Hard Rock 2.0. “Hats the Mandrill” is clearly the best example of such a genre-blending. While the intro is heavy and leaning towards modern prog (Mastodon, anyone ?), the song falls right into nostalgia land when vocals kick in, especially with this slightly cheesy yet super catchy chorus.
The first three seconds of “Smiling Thrush” are a particular highlight for me, although the song dives back into a melodramatic state that’s closer to Genesis than Mastodon. Luckily for me, the finale offers some highly needed dissonances. My favorite track is definitely “Grendle” for its crazier riffs and vocal harmonies, a hint of King Buzzo in his most messed up moments, and I can never resist that.
For the most part, the album felt underwhelming despite being only 7-track long: I was just not in the right mood to accept it for what it is, rather than what I’d hope for it to be. Of course, I would have preferred more noise, fewer twirls, more power to enlighten the band’s many clever ideas. Again, it’s a strong legacy that Boss Keloid are honoring here. Is it a good prog album? Obviously, as long as you’re into this 70’s vibe and even more so if you’re an expert of the genre. This is not my case but I must admit that once I gave it all my attention and let go of my a prior, it turned out to be a lot deeper and definitely a grower.
To put this album in the context of Boss Keloid’s discography, this is their fifth record since 2010 and by very far their proggiest and most ambitious. “Family The Smiling Thursh” might not be as crushing and striking as their first three efforts and not as crazy and experimental as “Melted On The Inch”, and this is definitely not my favorite side of them, but the experience is worth a shot, given the amount of confidence and cohesiveness on display here.
Last modified: 19 July 2021