Georgian sludge rockers Baroness continue their epic journey of colourful album titles, and return with an awe-inspiring musical masterpiece they call the Blue Record…
It’s been a long two years since Baroness’ 2007 release, Red Album, was let loose on our ear holes. With an impressive, yet slightly monotonous arsenal of sludge filled, stoner metal grooves and epic melodic poetry, Red Album was a hopeful, but flawed debut from a potentially amazing group of musicians.
Now with a braver, more mature and above all, more exciting attitude towards their musical endeavours, Baroness have unleashed an album which I personally feel that their 2007 effort should have sounded like from the get-go. Known as its “sister album”, Blue Record is a 45-minute juggernaut of dusty sludge riffs, joyous melodic harmonies, and heaps of pleasant surprises that will leave any Baroness fans, new or old, with huge gnome-like grins on their bearded faces.
Opening up with ‘Bullhead’s Psalm’, the first of a few fully instrumental offerings on the album, we see a very dark, folk-inspired side of Baroness crawl out of it’s dank cave, and grace us with a progression of reverb-soaked guitar riffs, seamlessly coiling around each other to create an underlying theme of poetic imagery and complete hopelessness.
Next track ‘The Sweetest Curse’ introduces itself with an epic lone guitar riff before exploding into what will become the signature sound of Blue Record’s heaviest moments. Frontman John Baizleys vocals are also welcomed onto the album here, with a more concentrated sound and a deeper, darker presence, the vocals on Blue Record really are a step up from their previous offering.
There’s a bigger sense of accomplishment regarding the song writing on this album, and it shines through with amazingly tight musicianship and a more apparent use of atmosphere and mood-setting within songs and their structures, Baroness have completely blown their limits out of the water and pulled all the punches on pretty much every track.
Third track ‘Jake Leg’ is a standout song for me on Blue Record, with a much more accessible heavy-rock sound, and some god-like guitar work battling with tom-heavy drum rhythms for total domination, this is proof of how instantly Baroness can switch from subtle obscurity, to a completely approachable rock sound.
As well as holding on to the more gritty, stoner influenced sides of their previous releases, the band have also added a few pleasant acoustic moments to this release, such as fourth track ‘Steel That Sleeps The Eye’, which uses heavy vocal harmonies and a more traditional folk instrumental, to create two and a half minutes of calm before the album nestles back in to it’s sludge rock roots with ‘Swollen And Halo’. Also to note is that Baroness have a tendency to subliminally reignite and reincarnate certain hooks, vocal melodies, riffs and drum beats throughout various songs on the album, so if you’re listening to a certain track and swear you’ve heard it before… that’s because you probably have.
Sixth track ‘Ogeechee Hymnal’ is another good example of this, effortlessly re-introducing the melody from opener ‘Bullheads Psalm’, and creating something new, fresh, and much more heavy from it, before being hit with another surprise in the form of an ambient post-rock atmosphere of phased guitar hums and distant rolling bass-lines. This is an atmosphere of which Baroness have experimented with in previous releases, but not quite expanded on, and this time they use it as a completely effective break amongst the chaos of raw musical energy.
Nearing the end of the album, there’s no sense of dryness or lack of inspiration as ‘A Horse Called Golgotha’ and ‘O’er Hell And Hide’ swerve in and out of quiet and loud, creating dirty soundscapes of fast-paced movement and sudden departures into calmness. ‘War, Wisdom And Rhyme’ storms through it’s four and a half minute run-time with perfect dual guitar onslaughts and distorted vocal sections, whilst next track ‘Blackpowder Orchard’ is a very short, almost novel acoustic track with a beautiful guitar layer and a softly distorted overlaid riff to drive it onwards.
Second to last track ‘The Gnashing’ is another highly accessible sludge rock foot-stomper, with some emotive vocals (the last of which you’ll hear on the album), and a generally up-beat vibe lacing it’s energetic four minutes of glory. And then finally, after the epic journey that is Blue Record, last track ‘Bullhead’s Lament’ arrives to combine all the detailed aspects of sound that have progressed and picked up during it’s time in your speakers, and create with it, the true climax of the album. Completely instrumental, ‘Bullheads Lament’ progressively combines the best of Blue Records’ insane guitar riffs, fluid basslines, and solid drum rhythms, and gradually builds you up to a pinnacle of epic sludge beauty.
If you get the chance to check out at least one Baroness release, make sure it’s Blue Record, it’s a wonderful insight into what this band does, and what they love to do. The things these guys achieve when they stretch their limits is amazing, so let’s hope it’s something they progress more with in the future.