Monday, July 9th 2012
Seventeen songs deep into the new Baroness double-album Yellow & Green, frontman John Baizley screams the lyric “walk the line between the righteous and the wicked.” This is exactly what he and his band mates are doing in 2012, as the group puts it all on the line with a new album that showcases the band’s evolution from their sludge metal roots into arguably one of the most innovative Rock n’ Roll bands on the planet today.
Divided into two separate records titled Yellow and Green respectively, Baroness has truly taken to heart their mission statement of keeping an open mind, confront challenges, avoid repetition and take the music to diverse audiences. Gone are the detuned palm muted riffs of Red Album and in its place are lush melodies, solid grooves and vocals rich in melody and emotion.
After a brief instrumental introduction, the Yellow disc opens with the high octane Take My Bones Away. The desperate kick in the ass that commercial rock radio is in denial that it needs, Bones sends the statement that the band can still crank it to 11; they have now just thrown melody into the mix for good measure.
Even when not cranking things to 11, Baroness finds a way to be heavy without relying on cliché palm muting and overly distorted guitars. Little Thing rips your heart out as any respectable break up song should while Cocanium has some of the most furious pump organ riffs ever recorded.
Yellow has an extremely strong nautical theme running through the lyrics that makes you wonder if the title Blue Album perhaps should have been saved for this effort instead of the group’s last full length recording. Numerous songs including March To The Sea, Little Things and Sea Lungs all feature intense imagery of losing your life to large bodies of water. On Sea Lungs Baroness manages to create a sense of drowning both in the swirling flanger heavy riffs and the struggle within the lyrics of front man John Baizley.
“Breathe in deep let the sea fill your lungs, better to brace for death then die upon the land.”
Yellow eventually wraps with the six minute opus Eula. What starts as a beautiful acoustic ballad slowly adds layers of harmony and odd-ball distorted and discombobulated riffs until it fully evolves into a smorgasbord of sonic supremacy. Eula may serve as the closing track for the first of two discs but it is without a doubt the defining moment of the entire 18 song collection, if not the bands entire career.
Despite being grouped together in the same package, the Green album has a radically different feel from Yellow. It starts off in the same manor with a brief instrumental followed by the hard rocking ready for radio Board Up The House. However the album quickly mellows out from that point on as hard rocking numbers are few and far between. Songs like Mtns. (The Crown & Anchor) and downright spacey Collapse make one wonder if Yellow was designed for consumption during the day and Green is best taken in long after the sun has set upon the day. The fact that a third of the songs on Green are instrumentals adds to this soothing lull previously untapped by the band.
With Yellow & Green there is zero doubt that Baroness has created a sonic masterpiece. Every tone and vocal harmony has been well thought out in order to take the listener on an intense journey that will leave you in awe while blowing everything you have known and loved about Baroness out of the water. Yet this is where the risk truly lies with Yellow & Green. Will the hardcore metal fans view this as the moment where their sludge heroes sell out? Will mainstream critics be able to overlook past conceptions of the group to dig deep enough into what is a no brainer for the annual year end top albums of 2012 lists? It’s a fine line when you walk between the righteous and the wicked, but with Yellow & Green, Baroness has done just that with grace and perfection.