Release Date: Oct 13, 2009
Record label: Relapse
Genre(s): Rock, Alternative, Metal
Georgia-based psychedelic rock band (calling them a metal act seems very reductive, though there's some seriously headbangable material on this disc) Baroness has made a subtle but unmistakable evolutionary leap on this, their second full-length and a clear companion piece to 2007's Red Album. It's hard to say exactly what new guitarist Pete Adams has brought to the band after replacing drummer Allen Blickle's brother Brian, but the band's established blend of Southern sludge riffs, druggy instrumental journeys, and melodic interstitial interludes, all propelled by a particularly thudding drum sound and held together by John Baizley's hoarse but clean vocals and gorgeous cover art, are even stronger now than before. The transition from the almost Moody Blues-like "Steel That Sleeps the Eye" into the crunching hard rock epic "Swollen and Halo" is just one example of Baroness' seamless melding of moods through technique and compositional acumen.
Blue Record, the second LP from Savannah, Ga., hero-metal quartet Baroness, feels like it spins for either 30 or 90 minutes, but never the 44 minutes the tracklist advertises. Full of stops and starts, dynamic swells and swan dives, razor-sharp guitar leads, and dense full-band bludgeons, these 12 tracks swell with parts and counterparts, condensing epics into tightly arranged, executed, and edited two-minute stretches. Within most any given track, Baroness twist between feelings of triumph and trouble, elation and depletion, playing all with unequal parts grace and grit.
Unlike many young bands that need time to find their identity, Baroness arrived five years ago with a fully-formed sound that immediately separated them from the rest of the American metal pack, the early First and Second EPs and the 2007 split with Unpersons, A Grey Sigh in a Flower Husk, subtly morphing from monstrous, sludgy post-metal to the broad, all-encompassing style of 2007’s acclaimed Red Album. Theirs is a sound that’s difficult to pin down, with traces of mainstream American metal, early 1970s progressive rock, Southern rock, the dissonance of Fugazi, the classic gallop and twin guitar work of Thin Lizzy, and the stripped-down, straightforward approach of a jam-oriented indie rock band, pure heaviness offset by an often startling knack for arresting melodies, either from guitar or John Baizley’s robust vocals. For those who are wary of the seeming impenetrability of more extreme-minded contemporary metal, the Red Album was far more welcoming, its openness to sounds outside the genre and ability to integrate everything seamlessly lending itself an inclusive rather than exclusive quality.