Yellow and Green (Relapse)
Another of the most anticipated albums of 2012 dropping this summer is by BARONESS. I have been a huge fan of the band since before they were popular so I will admit I have been excited for this album like a little girl getting a pony on her fifth birthday. After 2009′s Blue Album blew up and catapulted them to the top of every taste makers lists (it ranked #2 for me that year, by a nose behind MASTODON’s Crack The Skye), I didn’t have to rave about this band that few knew about anymore. Usually two things happen when a band reaches this level: they plateau and disappoint or they rise to the occasion and deliver a masterpiece. Rest assured, BARONESS has done the latter and then some.
With a sweeping double album, Yellow and Green has continued the journey the band has been on for several albums. Although the songs are still full of spirit and vitriol and packed with Olympian guitar work, musically the band has moved away from metal and potatoes Sludge influenced Prog-rock. What they have done is transform their sound, without constraints and wrote flat-out brilliant songs. They may lose some long time fans in the process, but similar to MASTODON and OPETH, this has been a long time coming. Some songs rage and others ebb and flow gently. All of them have a character and a soulfulness lacking in a lot of today’s music. Tiny details, amazing little bits of genius carefully put into the tracks that make each listen more rewarding. It is the sound of a band fully gelling, although defined and led by John Baizley’s creative fire
Yellow… is the more uptempo and rocking side of the two, but not in strict terms. After “Yellow Theme” sets the table as many BARONESS records have done before you have the rollicking singles like “Take My Bones Away” and “March To the Sea”. Without the use of metals’ clichés of over-driven amps and palm-muted chords, these songs stand on their own, and still damn heavy. Still, the beauty of the album is in mellower, but deeper cuts like “Little Things” and “Twinkler” that will be a treat for your ears and heart. Heady and emotive like all the greats: QUEEN, THIN LIZZY, late-era LED ZEPPELIN or early psychedelic-era PINK FLOYD, these albums took you on a mental journey into mystery the first time you heard them. “Cocanium” is a straight out 70′s Pop-Rock delight that could have been at home on a JOE WALSH or STEVE MILLER album. Gritty, mature and possessing dynamite bass lines and keyboard parts. Baizley actually played all of the bass on the album too since new bassist Matt Maggioni hadn’t joined until late in the writing process. Whether it’s the catchy “Back Where I Belong” or the transcendent “Eula”, every song has goose-bump inducing moments from both Baizley and Peter Adams in the guitar work.
Green… is very interesting by itself. I listened to the entire album together many times already, but Green has its own merits alone too. It’s not a case of one side being rockers and the other a chill out. Quite the opposite. Both albums have their different tones and timbres. “Green Theme” is actually a little less somber and more up beat than the earlier side intro song. Drummer Allen Blickle might have had to hold back a little more overall than his usual ferocious attack, but it may very well be his best playing of his career. “Board Up The House” has wonderful dynamic range as does “Mtns. (The Crown &Anchor)”. Baizley’s philosophical story telling gets an additional boost from some harmonized vocal lines that will make you think of THE BEATLES. “Collapse” is another gem of song craft also. “Stretchmarker” is soft and introspective while “The Line Between” is one of the hardest songs of the set. “If I Forget Thee, Lowcountry” puts a dreamy end to the opus. Yellow and Green is not only the perfect soundtrack to summer, it is the best album of this mighty bands’ career.
by Keith (Keefy) Chachkes