Release Date: Jul 17, 2012
Record label: Relapse Records
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Heavy Metal
This Georgia metal band's most accessible record is this sprawling, 75-minute double album. The edges are smoother and the choruses more pronounced than before, but they're still as marauding and feral as ever. The Yellow disc is more immediate ("March to the Sea" is Fugazi via Rush); Green is artier, stretching filmy guitars across monk-like vocals.
What we have come to expect from Baroness is greatness. And they never let us down... It’s been three years since Savannah’s finest sludge ‘metallers’ released new music, but now they’re spoiling us with an 18-track behemoth split into two (you guessed it, ‘Yellow’ and ‘Green’). Single ‘Take My Bones Away’ was a great foresight into what the four-piece have grown into, introducing more melodic aspects and exploring new sounds and techniques, but if you’re looking for another sludgy, hard-hitting metal record you’ll be left disappointed as Baroness have pretty much severed all ties with that side of things.
Take Yellow & Green, the latest LP from Baroness in your hands. Feel the weight of this double album and consider John Dyer Baizley’s (Baroness’s guitarist/singer/leader) elaborate artwork. Allow the gatefold album to genuflect and reveal the intricacies ingrained in the design—notice the themes on display and the subtle darkness that harbours beneath the immediate and colourful imagery.
When they started making burly, progressive sludge almost 10 years ago, Baroness weren't teenagers: They were grown men with a refined, nuanced approach to heavy metal. Even in 2003, it wasn't your typical Southern sludge swamp. That said, I doubt anyone listening then could've predicted Yellow & Green. The quartet's new 18-song, 75-minute double album offers a broad, rich expanse of pretty, psychedelic, occasionally heavy, mostly straight-up rock that veers easily into pop, post-rock, and lulling ambient washes.
I've always been a sucker for the pretty and sophisticated classical-guitar-inspired instrumentals that often appear on otherwise bludgeoning metal albums. Baroness's ambitious third full-length has lots of them, especially on the second of this double album. But that's about as far as it seems appropriate to take the term "metal." The Savannah, Georgia, four-piece used to trade in sludgy doom and prog but have largely left it behind, drawing instead from melodic hard rock, moody post rock and 90s alt.
Baroness doesn’t repeat itself. The Georgia quartet is shifty in that way; it finds a sound, hones it, and then leaves it behind to search for new, more challenging sonic territory. 2007’s Red Album was a pummeling debut LP, definitive of the sludgy metal brewing in Georgia at the time. Although frontman John Baizley screamed most of his lyrics, his knack for melody was evident on songs like “Wanderlust” and taken a step further on 2009’s sprawling Blue Record.
Prog-metal masterminds find their inner singer/songwriter The members of Baroness have always mixed in a little indie rock with their occasionally sludgy brand of prog metal. And they’ve always peppered their albums with pretty little classical- and folk-anchored tunes like “Cockroach en Fleur,” “Bullhead’s Psalm” and “Blackpowder Orchard.” But they’ve never pulled off either with the focus and sense of purpose they do on their latest. Nor have they ever sounded so eclectic, polished or mindful.
On Yellow & Green, the Savannah, Georgia rock unit's sound continues to evolve in a similar fashion as their two previous color-themed albums. Red Record was a culmination of the cranked sludge metal assault developed on the band's early-career EPs, while Blue Record took listeners on a more nuanced, slightly prog rock ride, with varied approaches toward a still-headbang-worthy endgame. Their new double LP is divided into two halves; each nine-track disc—one Yellow, one Green—has a distinct tone: Yellow is the harder-rocking half, Green is its experimental, moodier sister.
Back in 2009, Baroness released not only one of the year’s most critically acclaimed metal records (competing with albums by Mastodon, Sunn O))), and Kylesa), but also my personal favorite album of that entire year, the Blue Record. That LP marked a perfect blend of heavy-riffing, highly technical guitar noodling, and hook-loaded songwriting- an overall heavy-metal wet dream for a former Central Jersey mall-metal kid like myself. Now, three years and a massive amount of anticipation later the Savannah, Georgia sludge outfit has released a sprawling double album with a very new musical direction in tow.
And here we are at our next stop in the Museum of Heavy Music: the hall of crossovers. This is where we celebrate those albums that had the perfect mix of melody and murkiness, the ones that managed to bravely touch down in the hazardous world of “the mainstream.” In case you were wondering, the restrooms are over in that corner, right by the Avenged Sevenfold display. You’re probably here for the Metallica Black Album exhibit or maybe the brand new Mastodon 3D Experience.
Apparently, just one primary color was no longer enough to cover the volume of ideas produced by Atlanta, Georgia's Baroness for its third long-playing release, and thus the 2012 follow-up to 2007's Red Album and 2009's Blue Record has become an 18-song double set named Yellow & Green. The irony is there's no obvious cohesive theme or musical direction particular to either color (Green might be a shade more morose, if at all), as each contains an equally schizophrenic array of musical touchstones, too eclectic to easily categorize. In fact, the biggest headline about this release pertains to something else entirely, and that is Baroness' not entirely unexpected evolution into something other than a heavy metal band; one focused on expanding its arsenal of sounds and moods while embracing big choruses and more commercial songwriting tricks targeting maximum immediacy.
The first couple of releases from Baroness packed a fair old punch. ‘Red Album’ and ‘Blue Record’ were concoctions of crusty sludge-metal as baking as a summer in their home state of Georgia, but the band were orthodox hard rockers at their core, never all that extreme. Until ‘Yellow And Green’, their third album, that is: totalling 75 minutes and spread, slightly unnecessarily, over two CDs, it reaches unexpected new heights in the pantheon of ‘metal bands who mellowed out’.
Historically overhyped Mastodon Jr. delivers its Leviathan. Four sides quarter Yellow & Green's double-album divide, beginning at the Georgians' seafaring "Take My Bones Away" and "March to the Sea." Not a drop of water is wasted in their wake. Deceptively soft accusation "Little Things" spearheads the discs' indie rock crossover, while the monastic harmonies of "Twinkler" and Seventies FM rock bauble "Cocainium" out-chill the Queens of the Stone Age.
The remnants of metal music are still trying to find a clear way out. For many bands, metal finds them pigeon-holed and devoid of constructive progress. For Georgia-based Baroness, metal has been an exploration of vivid highs and stirring convictions. Through their first set of EPs and most recently with Red Album and Blue Record, they’ve fashioned a sound that is wholly expansive and not easily classified.
A beautiful next step in the ongoing saga of Baroness. Raziq Rauf 2012 You’ll recognise John Baizley’s voice if you’re a Baroness fan, but there will be some immediate doubts; doubts that border on apprehension, as this is a markedly different album than its predecessors. Yellow & Green sits apart from the stunning sludge of Red Album and Blue Record, material that made everyone from the metal press to the indie sheets sit up and take notice of the Savannah, Georgia quartet.
There are some bands that people consider to be truly special. They may not be the most commercially successful, or even the most notorious, but to those in the know they are spoken of in reverential terms; their music capable of touching places within that few manage. Savannah Georgia's Baroness are undoubtedly one such band. Their Red and Blue albums combined the heartwarming, homely aura of southern rock with a sludge infused take on progressive metal efficiently enough to have a profound impact upon the listener.
It’s been a rough decade for hard rock. While metal has prospered under the ever-watchful and taste-stratifying eye of the Internet, sprouting enough micro-genres and mini-controversies to let fans burrow into the depths of the genre without ever coming up for air, hard rock has faded like a temporary tattoo coming off in the pool. Think about this: System Of A Down’s Toxicity is over 10 years old.
This highly anticipated double album continues the theme of colour-oriented album titles Baroness established with Red Album and Blue Record. Rather than the verdant freshness and reviving sunlight this album's title attempt to evoke, what Yellow & Green channels is the wan sickness of disappointment. Throughout their career, the cerebral and sophisticated Baroness have maintained a brilliant tension between the grime and grit of sludge and the intricate sophistication of prog metal and rock.