Metal to the Masses: Baroness Lives On

Audrey Avril ’19

Late into last year, Baroness released Purple and reminded us that we should give metal a shot some time.

The 4th full-length album from the sludge metal band from Savannah, Georgia, Purple continues the band’s journey through the color spectrum, from the electric energy of breakout Red and the unrelenting harshness it sustained into Blue, to a maturation of the experimentation (borderline indie rock vibe) found on the double album Yellow & Green. In the end, Baroness pulls from the best of their discography to craft a powerful, thrilling, and diverse sound that is well worth a listen from any fan of metal, hard rock, or heck, music in general.

The first thing a person notices about Baroness is the continuity of their sound. If you listen to each album in order (a worthwhile pursuit), you get the distinct impression that it all comes from a core style that deviates very little save for some experimentation here or there. Overall, the band’s sound truly seems to change only on its constant path towards improvement through the pruning, maturing, and enriching effects of time. The band started out good, and has gotten better.

On Purple, Baroness pulls from the unbridled energy of Red and Blue, leading some fans to speculate a combination of the two as an inspiration for the sound on the album. However, Yellow & Green has definitely left a mark as well, reining in some of the psychedelic and alternative experimentation into a more intriguing sound that still sticks to its harder roots.

The album opens with a powerhouse of a guitar riff on “Morningstar,” one of the songs that I think closest resembles the pre- Yellow & Green toughness that many more classic metal fans felt was lost. This is followed by the catchy “Shock Me” that exemplify a touch of melody from Yellow & Green, and also serves to provide one of the great hooks of the album.

On the whole the songs flow nicely into the album and the pacing is pretty tight, with never a dull moment (some quieter moments, yes, but never dull). However, the whole process seems to culminate in the creation of “Chlorine & Wine” as the takeaway track. The song starts off on a pensive piano, and flows into an alternative riff that explodes into unrelenting guitar and emotionally-charged lyrics. The song is one of tragedy yet positive affirmation for the band. Shortly after the release of Yellow & Green, the band got into a bus accident landing the group in the hospital. After the experience, half of the lineup left the band, and Baroness had to heal as a project as its members did. Here, “Chlorine & Wine” becomes more than a good metal song, it becomes a song of strength of will and might.

With songs like “Chlorine & Wine,” Baroness is able to transform a good metal album into a good album that transcends its genre. I could see people finding this album from many different angles, from a classic metal, classic rock, post-rock, to even Foo Fighter-esque perspectives, and enjoying it just as well. As daunting and dense as metal likes to think it is as a genre, this album proves that it can be metal and accessible and good all at the same time. All in all, well worth a listen.

 

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