BARONESS – Live At Maida Vale (EP)

BARONESS – Live At Maida Vale (EP)

Baroness – purveyors of sludge metal so thick it’ll have you gasping for air, whilst desperately gagging for more.

On their newest EP, they serve up live performances of four songs taken from their double-disc 2012 album Yellow & Green – in the historic Maida Vale BBC studios.

They released Yellow & Green last July, but just a month later the band’s future was in question after their tourbus crashed, falling thirty feet from a viaduct near Bath, England. Band members were later discharged from hospital along with all the members of crew who were onboard the bus, but in March this year bassist Matt Maggioni and drummer Allen Blickle left the band, due to injuries sustained in the accident. Remaining members Pete Adams and John Baizley have now been joined by Nick Jost on bass, and drummer Sebastian Thomson.

The recordings which are featured on Live At Maida Vale were first broadcast on 24th July 2012, on the Radio One rock show, hosted by Daniel P. Carter. Therefore, there is still no published material from the band which features Jost or Thomson; though they are currently touring with their new line-up in the USAThey will be making a return to Europe this autumn.

This EP isn’t particularly long, and the sound quality is something of a disappointment as it’s quite muffled – I don’t mean this in the sense of their fuzzy, sludgy album sound, but in the way that the detailed textures aren’t always very apparent; imagine standing outside a festival tent and trying to give a fair review of the performance from the band playing inside.

It’s still the Baroness  that many have come to know and love, and the live renditions of the Yellow & Green tracks are spot on, behind the murky mix. There’s a good selection of songs here; from the heavy Take My Bones Away, to the awesomely deep groove of March To The Sea which borders on stadium rock stylings, but merges the crowd-pleasing predictable song structure with an excellent ear for melody, and a generous helping of space rock. The denouement of soloing leading into the final chorus is gobsmacking – but the song is far too suddenly curtailed.

This isn’t the version to be found on the Live At Maida Vale EP, but here’s a live performance of Take My Bones Away recorded during Baroness‘ tour with Meshuggah last spring:

It’s great to hear this unreleased material, but something needed to have happened about the recording quality – and since there’s only four tracks here, I do feel a little underwhelmed, and I really don’t have as much to say as about Yellow & Green or their other albums. It’s good to have live material, and recording at Maida Vale is undeniably really cool. But I’m looking forward to hearing another studio album far more.

Once Baroness complete their busy 2013 touring schedule, I’ll be seeking out any hints at a new album.

But this EP will do for now, as a reminder of how excellent Baroness are, despite the production issues.