A celebratory expansion of their sound, full of surprising reference points.
Noel Gardner 2009-10-19
Featuring lush sleeve art, by the band’s frontman John Baizley, where the titular colour dominates, Blue Record is the follow-up to Baroness’ 2007 debut full-length The Red Album – its artwork was similar, but with lots of red. The similarities between this stellar Georgian metal four-piece and other notable blue and red bands, The Beatles and Weezer, end there, but for one thing: the ability to rock in triumphant and celebratory fashion, with a winning ear for melody.
This state of affairs is not new territory for Baroness, whose roots are in the crustier and more hardcore-frazzled extreme of metal, but it is definitely an expansion of their horizons. At least some of the credit for this ought to go to John Congleton, a producer whose ability to generate drama and prickly unease has led dozens of indie-rock bands to his Texan lair. Baroness are a heavier beast than his average assignment, but they are intricate and tricksy enough for the partnership to work.
From the first full – and how full! – song on the album, The Sweetest Curse, you can tell that Baroness are attempting to work with a wider palette, while avoiding the trap of either assimilating genres into an indistinguishable mush, or being needlessly eclectic. Guitars carry the high-voltage blues sting of prime Thin Lizzy, while Baizley’s vocals resemble a raspier version of Steve Brooks from Torche, Baroness’ Floridian cousins-in-sound and one of the more acclaimed weavers of metal and melody in the last few years.
Other surprising reference points rear their heads over Blue Record’s twelve tracks. Swollen and Halo’s guitar parts recall nothing so much as Radiohead’s My Iron Lung, while A Horse Called Golgotha exhibits brooding drama worthy of post-rock’s top-drawer outfits, fused with galloping metal rifferama. Not every jump into the ether finds the band landing on their feet: Steel That Sleeps the Eye is an acoustic throwaway that doesn’t indicate that an episode of MTV Unplugged with Baroness would reveal hidden sensitivity. However, rest assured that the expanses of lead-lined heaviosity here will sound better still when blasted through a wall of amps.