With a name like END OF LEVEL BOSS, I was hoping to encounter something huge, challenging, and worthy of numerous replays. You know, like something from Lost Planet or Shadow of the Colossus. Although this third full-length proffers its fair share of interesting musical choices, notably the intricate drumming by Neil Mackay Grant, “Eklectric” rears hardly anything truly massive in scope over its 53 minutes of playing time. Still, though, does size really matter?
London Prog-Rockers END OF LEVEL BOSS are a talented bunch and their wizardry at melding different rhythms and styles is evident over the course of “Eklectric.” The band fools around with Progressive variations littered around the Rock and Metal universe; “As the Earth Forgets Us” sounds like an ode to KING CRIMSON or the off-kilter vibe of TOOL, and the desert wind riffing of “This is Not the Way It Was” brings to mind echoes of QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE, KYUSS, and SOUNDGARDEN; all great influential bands that have apparently paved the way for an album exactly like “Eklectric.”
Things roll smoothly for END OF LEVEL BOSS, and then things trip awkwardly, like the embarrassing and puerile third track, “Mouth of Hats,” a stumbling effort replete with rudimentary lyrics and vapid guitar lines that is nearly saved by an exciting middle section. Fortunately for the band, said third track is the lone glitch on the album. While never stupendous, the bulk of the record is fraught with a bluesy and groovy lifeblood, ensuring more than its share of foot-tapping and head-bobbing that is due in large part to the buoyant bass work of Peter Theobalds and Grant’s animated beat-keeping; undoubtedly the two saving graces of “Eklectric.”
While the guitar work by Roland Scriver and Harry "Heck" Armstrong is both formulaic and inquisitive, riffs and solos vary from run-of-the-mill to out-of-this-world, it has to be Heck’s vocals that are the most divisive. His voice is certainly strong, and on songs like “Blueshift” he adds plenty of emotive nuances for added flair, but his lyrics and occasionally poor vocal decisions (“Senescence”) can be more of a detriment to the song’s impact. Still, as far as singers go, Heck is solid; his choices seem to be the pitfall.
“Eklectric” is an album that has much going for it, especially in lieu of its musical influences and Progressive Punk dancing, but the memorability and go-to factors are erratic and less than potent. Tracks like “Thud” and “Red Grey Eye” are universally cool with their trippy, bass-heavy grooves and manic Stoner-Prog resolve and would surely stand tall at any blazing smoke-show, but their songs are all just barely above sea-level; they’re sturdy, but not towering, and it’s this semblance in quality, as good as it is, that may keep END OF LEVEL BOSS from ever saving the princess.
Recommended for fans of the aforementioned subgenres and bands.
(Online July 12, 2011)