Baroness


(Copyright © 2006 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )

Red Album (2007) , 7/10
Blue Record (2009) , 6.5/10
Yellow & Green (2012), 6/10
Purple (2015), 5/10
Gold & Grey (2019), 4/10
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(Clicka qua per la versione Italiana)

Baroness, hailing from Georgia and fronted by singer/guitarist John Baizley, created one of the most eclectic fusion of post-metal and post-stoner elements on the EPs First (Hyperrealist, 2004) and Second (Hyperrealist), 2005), later collected on First and Second, each containing three pieces. The first one contains Tower Falls, that runs grafts retro elements of progressive-rock and hard-rock of the 1970s onto stereotypes of death-metal and metalcore such as galopping guitars and gothic growls, Coeur, a briefer demonstration of their ability to bridge old-fashioned boogie-rock and progressive metal, and Rise, highlighted by a sophisticated guitar overture that slowly leads to metal grandeur and by a tormented finale. The second EP contains Red Sky, that ends up being a bit confusing with its continuous mood changes, Son Of Sun, a much better psychological build-up that opens with guitar vertigoes and even sinks in ghostly quasi-silence before skyrocketing to delirious frenzy, and Vision, that opens with psychedelic sounds and accelerates to a galactic crescendo only to settle into a distorted exotic melody with dancing drums. Both EPs showed an elegant amalgamation of traditions while laying the foundations for an original style.

A Grey Sigh in a Flower Husk (2007) was a split album with Unpersons.

The Red Album (Relapse, 2007) pushed the envelop even further, derailing deconstructing defanging multiple genres such as hardcore, stoner-rock, doom-metal and grindcore with surgical ferocity. Rays On Pinion begins as an impressionistic instrumental, and then turns into a tense melodrama with clean vocals, The vocals are even more intense on Isak, highlighted by guitar prowess and mighty drumming.
A lengthy elaborate instrumental introduction justifies the pathos of Wailing Wintry Wind, one of the most effective pieces thanks to a minuscule vocal part. Unrelenting guitar histrionics cements the howling desperation of Wanderlust, with vocals that repeat themselves but thankfully don't try to modulate a refrain. These two centerpieces are emblematic of the psychological power of the guitar work.
Aleph is basically a bluesy jam in disguise, having deformed the whole structure but kept the dominating role of ruvid hypnotic agonizing guitar riffs and having reduced the anguished vocals to mere screams.
There are even less metal moments, like the instrumental Teeth Of A Cogwheel, the acoustic intermezzo Cockroach En Fleur and the quietly anthemic Grad.
Each song is a kaleidoscope of understated melodies, post-rock alienation, metalcore fury, stoner languor and cerebral drumming. The weakest element is John Baizley's voice, that fails to significantly differentiate one song from the other.

Baroness turned infectiously poppy and completely idiosyncratic for Blue Record (Relapse, 2009), that featured new guitarist Pete Adams, a significant addition. The continuous shifts of style were more than a display of technical vanity or a sign of erratic aloofness: they were veritable therapeutic shocks. The best song, A Horse Called Golgotha, turns Mastodon's progressive theatrics into a touching psychodrama. In several places the album sounds like a bridge between past and future. The emphatic growling, pounding drums and burning guitars of The Sweetest Curse marked a return to the early style but within a streamlined structure and a simple melodic theme, while peaks of jarring discordance are achieved in Swollen and Halo. The pastoral and church-like motet Steel That Sleeps the Eye and the pathetic lament of Bullhead's Lament are balanced by the lumbering breathless O'er Hell And Hide. Ideas abound, from the tribal drumming of Jake Leg to the circular guitar patterns of The Gnashing, even though they probably don't match the cornucopia of the first album.

The double-disc Yellow & Green (Relapse, 2012) was only historically linked to heavy metal. Yellow is nothing but mainstream grunge-pop of the kind popularized in the 1990s by Nirvana, with vocalist John Baizley and guitarist Peter Adams adding existentialist vocal harmonies. After the instrumental overture Yellow Theme and the bombastic Take my Bones Away (the exception, not the rule), we are served power-ballads like Little Things and Sea Lungs and the Pink Floyd-ian electronic funk of Cocainium, peaking with the seven-minute grandeur of Eula. Its alter-ego Green is even less "heavy", just melodramatic arena rock, the kind out of which U2 made a career. After the more embellished instrumental overture Green Theme, we are treated to Board Up the House, March to the Sea, and Take My Bones Away, with a romantic peak in the catchy The Line Between. The instrumental closer If I Forget Thee Lowcountry sounds like a heartfelt wordless elegy.

Purple (2015), their most conventional album yet, with new drummer Sebastian Thomson and new bassist/ keyboardist Nick Jost, and produced by Dave Fridmann, contains embarrassingly poppy songs like Shock Me and Kerosene, the slightly less idiotic grunge-pop The Iron Bell and only hints of metal decency (Desperation Burns).

The sprawling 17-song Gold & Grey (2019), adding guitarist and vocalist Gina Gleason, further reduced the doses of metal and shamelessly embraced trivial singalong melodies like I'm Already Gone , Broken Halo and Throw Me An Anchor that make them sound like a cover band. At best, they sound like remnants of melodic hard-rock of the 1970s (Tourniquet). The delicate ballad Cold-Blooded Angels is the ultimate affront.

(Copyright © 2006 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )
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