I had no idea what was about to happen to me in the summer of 2010. I was overly excited to see Mastodon perform here in Lexington, and I’d inadvertently broken my own rule of not checking out the opening acts. Baroness took the stage, and I stood there indifferent, my stubborn metal jaw set - then Baroness started playing. My firm jaw dropped. I was riveted to their set, and left with every album they had at the merch table. I played the shit out of Red Album and Blue Record for the next six months straight. My only complaint with Baroness was not having enough of their uniquely appealing music. Insert nearly two years to the day of my serendipitous discovery – Yellow & Green is filling my house with beautiful music. I almost typed a <3 there. That is so not metal.
Yellow & Green is the third (and fourth) full-length release from this progressive-sludge quartet from Savannah, GA. I’m not going to lie or claim I was anything less than thrilled to get my hands on this double album. It’s taken all I had to not play the shit out of the three songs officially released in the last few weeks. I knew what was in store and wanted my home stereo and car to take the brunt of the listening. I got up this morning with a clear head and listened to this twice in its entirety. This is the defining moment for Baroness in their less than a decade-old career. This album is so complex and often times decidedly not metal that I’m inclined to believe there will be some “real metal” backlash. If you ditched Baroness at this point, then you didn’t deserve them. They went with their natural inclinations to evolve, and evolve they did.
While Blue Record is defiantly firm and in control, Yellow & Green serves up some bitter blues, taking a very visible chance on their musicianship and songwriting skills. Baizley and Adams take their dual vocals to the next level on an album that doesn’t require so much screaming. Instead the 75 minutes is filled with beautiful and lyrically engaging melodies. Metal has a hit or miss record when heavy bands step outside of their previous shields and open themselves up to mellower songs. A true test of a record like this lies almost solely in the melodies. Taking another page from rock, Yellow & Green is full of ambient songs that establish those melodies. If you’re a very aware listener you can pick up everything from Pink Floyd to Peter Gabriel Thank God for a heavy band that’s discovered the upbeat. This record is full of poppy shuffles and driving runs that support a riptide of somber and discordant musical heartaches.
I give Baroness credit for allowing their wide range of influences some ear time. They blur the line from bluesy,folksy riffs to intricate progressive structures and it all serves them so well. Baroness was heavy with expectations after the success of the previous album. While I do enjoy the more direct and concise song structure of Blue Record, Yellow & Green works on every front. If I had to bet, I would assume for every fan this might potentially put off, it’s going to gain 20 more. After all, aren’t we really fans of music as a whole? This not being a clearly definable metal record has no negative impact for me. If anything, it propels Baroness forward in my book. Metal bands don’t often step out of their heavy shadow long enough to deliver something as beautiful as this double record does. Baroness have become the band that they were destined for.
As I listen to “Foolsong“, the fourth song off Green, I’m reminded of the faux 70′s sound that only Ween can deliver. Much like Ween, Baroness have proved that a real band will travel to whatever soundscape their creativity and talent leads them. This is a marked change from Blue Record and I think it’s ultimately the move that’s going to propel their careers forward to a much broader listening base. Don’t fret, this is no mainstream bloodsucker. Baroness stamp every song with their trademark sound, and this is no different. Vintage guitar effects are ever-present and you still feel like you might have a buzz from just hearing them, kind of a secondhand smoke for the ears. Yellow & Green is a marvelous moment for a talented and unique band – I urge you to pick this up on July 17th when it becomes available.
Invest in some nice headphones and melt into the couch.