Herb Your Enthusiasm
8th April 2016 – Black Bow Records
01. Lung Mountain
02. Haarlem Struggle
05. Axis Of Green
07. Lung Valley
08. Elegant Odyssey
10. Hot Priest
Riffs! Weed puns! There are enough stoner bands with “bong” in their name for their own dedicated festival, so any band with a pop culture/ stoner pun from the get-go would appear to be treading familiar waters. Not so for Wigan’s Boss Keloid, who have cheerfully bucked preconceptions on their monstrous second full-length Herb Your Enthusiasm.
It’s a theme Boss Keloid set establish immediately with opener “Lung Mountain“, whose synthy intro tears into off-kilter, rip-roaring, doom-laden sludge. The variation continues throughout; Herb Your Enthusiasm reaches pretty high for varied songwriting, which is an admirable goal when it could easily have shot for more traditional genre features whilst showcasing the savage pipes of Alex Hurst, whose gargantuan pipes are the absolute highlight of the release. It’s “Axis of Green” – the album’s halfway point – that shows the most notable evidence of this, with some deft rhythmic changes lending the track extra swagger without compromising the righteous groove. The frequent rhythmic adjustments, vocal layering and swift changes between busy, involved sections and chilled segments all set the record release above their peers in terms of diversity.
Prior to this, the whispered, restrained intro to “Cone” marks the first proper break for the album – with a similar theme emerging in “Lung Valley“, whilst slower-paced number “Highatus” (more puns!) explores some straight-up stoner doom influences before fading out, and despite running at barely over two minutes, it’s still a charming, uncluttered interlude.
The risks taken in avoiding traditional structuring appear to pay off, though this is only really apparent with subsequent listens. It’s especially obvious with later tracks such as “Elegant Odyssey“, which focuses on lush vocal melodies and is probably the hookiest track on the album, along with the instantly memorable album closer “Hot Priest“, with its strong melody over the top of the pulsing psychedelic outro.
However, instantly stand-out moments are a little rarer that you might expect. By shying away from standard structures and eschewing obvious hooks, the band run the risk of their variation alienating listeners searching for satisfying, beefy riffs and big choruses favoured by their contemporaries. This leads to two observations: firstly, even casual listeners will find plenty to draw them in on repeated listens. Even with the busier compositions there’s enough to command attentions, though the guitars are given the spotlight less than one would expect from the genre.
Secondly, the band haven’t been especially subtle as to the preferable state of mind in which this release should be enjoyed. If this is your kind of thing and you’re looking for deceptively architectural psychedelic, swirling compositions, this is the record for you.
In a healthy scene, Boss Keloid stand out for their dedication to push their style to new frontiers and make no bones about the preferred state of mind for enjoying their nuanced output. With such a standout vocalist, this is propelled to one of the finest stoner/ doom releases this year. Plus, is anyone in the scene really committed to puns like these guys? You’d be a fool to miss out.