The band Baroness do not seem to repeat themselves – ever. It seems that the Georgia based quartet is a bit shifty that way. The band is notorious for finding a sound, fiddling with it, honing it, then leaving it behind to discover something sonically new.
Although the band’s frontman, John Baizley, screamed most of his lyrics, his knack for melody was all over previous Baroness records – and this development can be seen in the group’s newest offering, Yellow & Green.
This record finds Baroness soldiering into full-on melodic territory, embracing space and mood rather than the bombastic approach of previous efforts. In addition, Baizley sings more of than he screams, but the melody is still there.
This has put Baroness in an interesting position. Some fans are going to be alienated. Some will say that Baroness is getting soft. In fact, in the cutthroat world of metal fandom, Yellow & Green is a death wish. That is irrelevant though. Of course the band wants fans to listen to the record, but it seems that they have no interest in fulfilling anyone’s expectations but their own.
Baroness might wield some pretty hefty heavy metal weaponry – the beards, fuzz-out power chords and fantastical motifs and cover art – but it seems that they think like art rockers, never satisfied with following a pre-conditioned formula or re-visiting and re-imagining past efforts.
Yellow commences with a thematic introduction before launching into their lead single “Take My Bones Away,” a driving, sour anthem that has as much radio rock as it does metal. There are progressive keyboard flourishes, buildups, drop outs and lyrics about pills. Baroness are known to cram a lot of soundscapes into their tracks and with Baizley rounding out the vocal with a voice somewhere in between Dave Grohl of Foo Fighters and 1985 era James Hetfield of Metallica.
The rest of the Yellow side sway back and forth between loud moments and gentle ones before downshifting into the Green record.
The tempos are much slower and the songs are less immediate on Green and following the “Green Theme”, the song “Board Up the House” kicks off with a plodding bassline and Baizley crooning.
The band’s second guitarist, Pete Adams also does some experimenting on this side as well. When Baizley’s melodies fall flat, Adams’ twangy fills and latered effects provide a unique safety net.
Though it seems like it would be, Yellow & Green is not a double album but two separate records that function as one. It is imperative that listeners make this distinction as well, because Baroness did not do this arbitrarily, as each side has its own vibe.
The record is nearly 80 minutes in length and might seem daunting to some, however, dividing it in half, the way it is supposed to be experienced might be the best way to listen to it.
Of course the Yellow side is day to Green’s night but they are mutually exclusive. The tracks are sequenced for maximum effect too, as they flow into one another via crossfades, interludes and solid production.
Ultimately, this artsy approach might be off-putting for long time Baroness fans though, and so be it. Baroness have the capability to discern melodies, have unpredictable songwriting and vision for their work. Yellow & Green encapsulates all of those traits, and may just be one of this year’s most engaging hard rock records.