In their relatively short time in the public eye, Baroness has already led several lives. From the sheer brutality of early releases, to their breakthrough Red Album’s mix of melody and sludge, and through the sonic experimentation of the Blue Record, Baroness has cultivated a devoted fanbase while consistently evolving and tweaking their sound. Working with John Congleton (whose own group, The Paper Chase, is every bit as excellent and intense as the music he is renown for producing) for the second time, the clarity of sound and the subtle, effective production touches found on Green, the second half of an ambitious double album on longtime home Relapse Records.
The strings on “Foolsong” work to great effect, conjuring the proggier elements of Black Sabbath and other 70s bongriders. While the electronic flourishes on “Collapse” tend to overwhelm a strong melody, the nicely mixed acoustic rhythm guitar keeps the song in the pocket. It is these production touches that will both delight casual listeners and possibly turn off the heavier-than-thou contingent that supported Baroness in their earlier days. To that I say, go make love to your first-press Mayhem red vinyl if you’re going to deny a band the chance to grow.
“Psalms Alive” may be the definitive song on Green. Clean enough for radio, well-written enough not to get airplay, and firmly playing by its own rules. With bits of everything from that Pelican clean delay tone to a 90s vibe in the drum track, it throws in the kitchen sink, but not at the risk of destroying the song or muddying the concept.
While not the record some fans may have been expecting, change and growth have been the hallmarks of Baroness’ musical journey. Green is a decidedly agreeable affair, complete with acoustic guitars, bright production, and more color and beauty than sheer brutality – even on heavier burners like “The Line Between”, melody is paramount, and synths sneak in during the chorus.
While an eclectic approach tends to be the kiss of death for most bands, Baroness have managed to retain the elements in their sound that most appeal to their fans, while borrowing from a variety of genres and exploring new sonic ground. Yellow & Green may be their big crossover moment, a way to garner response from indie kids who dabble in metal. It can also function, however, as the perfect come down record for the kid who spent his night taking in a local grind showcase.
Listen via NPR