Savannah, Georgia sludge/prog metallers Baroness have returned with Yellow and Green, their follow-up record(s) to the equally chromatically titled Blue Record, an album that just missed out on the top spot in my personal 2009 “Album of the Year” list, beaten only by Mastodon’s Crack the Skye. It was that good…
Out-heavying and out-sludging both Blue and its precursor – you guessed it – Red was always going to be a difficult task; because of which, Baroness have opted to pursue their more melodic and progressive leanings hinted at on their previous records. And, as a result, they’ve turned in their most sublime album to date that, although a departure, is still most certainly a Baroness album.
Conveniently contradicting everything I’ve just said, the first track on the album proper – and ostensibly the first single – ‘Take My Bones Away’ is actually the closest track to what you would call typical Baroness. However, what follows for the rest of the album is anything but, with the band interlacing the melancholy (‘March to the Sea’) with the trippy (‘Back Where I Belong’, ‘Collapse’), the beautiful (‘Mtns. [The Crown and Anchor]‘, ‘Stretchmarker’) with the funky (‘Little Things’, ‘Cocainium’), and the soulful (‘Foolsong’) with the unashamedly poppy (‘Psalms Alive’, which has an air of – say it quietly – Bloc Party).
There are, of course, distinctive traits that mark this out as a Baroness record, such as John Dyer Baizley’s distinctive bellowing voice and his even more unique album artwork, the southern twang of the acoustic interludes (see the Moody Blues-tinged ‘Twinkler’ and album closer ‘If I Forget Thee, Low Country’), and the seeming ability of Baizley and fellow guitarist Peter Adams to come up with awesome riffs in their sleep. Admittedly, the guitar work isn’t as monolithic as it has been on previous albums, but it’s also never been as textured as it is on Yellow and Green, with Baizley and Adams giving fellow sludgers and state compatriots Mastodon a run for their money in the intertwined dual lead guitar stakes.
Best, and most impressive of all, they’ve managed to pull off with aplomb one of the hardest things to do in music – making a double album that isn’t bloated, directionless and bereft of quality control. For every The Wall and Damnation/Deliverance there’s a Stadium Arcadium or Hypnotize/Mesmerize (the latter of which isn’t all that bad, but could quite easily have shed quite a few songs and been squeezed onto one decent album rather than two of varying quality…). Every song on Yellow and Green has its place and serves a purpose; there’s no filler here, just two CDs, 18 songs, and 75 minutes of awesomeness.