Baroness Add to Their Palette with Yellow & Green

I wrote an article about Savannah's genre blenders Baroness and their latest album, Yellow & Green. However, that doesn't seem important at all at the moment. Last Tuesday, Baroness were in a serious bus accident near Bath, UK. All of the band and crew members were taken to the hospital, and most of them are still receiving treatment. You can read my original article after the jump if you want to, but let's keep the focus on wishing everyone involved makes a full recovery, shall we.

Ah, Baroness. While their music (a peculiar mixture of prog rock, sludge metal, punk and even bluegrass) bears similarities to fellow Savannahians Kylesa and Black Tusk, and to Mastodon, also from Georgia, they've definitely always had their own attractions and points of intrigue. Having previously put out the brilliant Red Album (2007) and the even more brilliant Blue Record (2009), Baroness expanded their palette this summer with the ambitious double album Yellow & Green. The album was released a month ago, on July 17th. Writing this review-type-thingy has taken a while -- Yellow & Green hasn't been the easiest album to digest, given its sheer volume and certain leaps the band is taking with it. It seems to me that some of those leaps land on their mark, some quite a way off.

As mentioned, Yellow & Green is a double album -- with one disc titled Yellow and the other Green, natch. The package is put together in a stately but smart way: both records start with and carry their own themes, both have their own identities. The entirety has been designed so that one can listen to the whole thing in one sitting, or either of the two halves by themselves.

From the very first listen (and perhaps already before, what with the massive format and all) it's obvious that Baroness have -- fully knowingly or not -- gone for something big here. The music is more rock and less metal than Baroness' previous stuff. This is fine as such, and I guess expected, too -- I don't know if I've never thought of Baroness as a particularly ”metal” band. Plus, it's not like this is mainstream rock anyway. Guitarists Pete Adams and John Baizley are using a whole bunch of different tunings and techniques, and there's quite a lot of quirky stuff going on.

Music video for 'Take My Bones Away', second track from the Yellow record.

Sounds like a great record then? Not quite as great as one would hope, I'm afraid. Yellow & Green is definitely not a bad album, but something is wrong. It feels like the band has tried to expand their sound and create something impressive, but the end result is, in a way, hollow. Even if the playing on the album is very versatile, the songs still feel too similar. There are too few memorable parts, and the overall feeling is slightly... well, I wouldn't go as far as to say boring, but unfortunately something along those lines. I'm inclined to place most of the blame on the vocals.

Baizley's (backed by Adams) vocal style has undergone quite a change since the previous record. The vocals are now cleaner across the board, and usually layered for extra depth. But in my opinion, they're also too monotonous. I've got nothing against clean singing and I'm not one of those ”true” metalheads whining about Baroness losing their edge or something. I just feel the vocals could use some extra spark, and that more isn't always better – there needn't be multiple vocal tracks layered all the time.

These guys can do better!

'Eula', also from Yellow.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous2/10/12 06:41

    Amidst the excellent guitarwork, the vocals struck me as weakness of the album as well. From track to track, the vocal cadences, harmonies, and dynamics are similar; there's a tangible monotony to it that doesn't draw me in even as the guitars are lively and entertaining. "Eula" breaks away from the monotony somewhat and the album starts to feel like it's going somewhere, but 8 tracks have passed by then. The lyrics are often bitter yet not really pointed at anything. It's too bad because the guitars set this album up to be amazing.