Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Album Review : Blue Record - Baroness 9*

For Fans Of : Mastodon, Kylesa, Black Sabbath, Metallica

This is wonderful, the Savannah, Georgia quartet obviously owe some of their sound to the groundbreaking work put out by sludge/prog pioneers Mastodon, but Baroness have their own sound, slightly softer than Mastodon, with twists and strands of melody and constantly shifting guitar and drum parts.

The album is bracketed by the two part musical piece Bullhead's Psalm and Bullhead's Lament which follow Heavy Metal Rule # 14 - The Inverse Introduction Rule : The softer and more melodic a piece of intro music is, the harder and heavier the music to follow will be.  Thus a rock riff to open an album will be followed by more of the same, if a celestial choir opens the album then the next song will involve heavy artillery and a chainsaw.

Baroness then are proponents of the new wave of sludge metal, what is sludge ? Think Black Sabbath at their heaviest and most grinding, but then remove normal verse-chorus-solo song structure and replace it with prog style songs as played by Napalm Death.  Does this mean that sludge is just a constant wall of noise ? No, not at all, the very best bands in the genre, Mastodon and now Baroness, show fantastic levels of musical versatility.  The musical style is heavy, but varied, the drums patterns shift and change throughout songs, gone are the simple but fast beats beloved by thrash metal bands, in their place drummer Alan Blickle hammers out a dizzying array of percussive rhythms.

The lead guitar work of Pete Adams and John Baizley, ably backed up by Summer Welch bass, spirals around each other, there are riffs here but they undulate and change, there are flourishes of high notes leaping up out of the heavier sound, songs can shift from gentle and melodic to pounding and massive in moments.  These time and sound changes are all accomplished in a very organic manner, the changes sound natural and flowing and not at all forced or discordant.

Lyrically the band use twisted, archaic forms of language to give an impression of a violent and brutal distant age...

"Curse with me
Profane and discreet
Make her move
Cross veins and chamomile

Soft and sweet
Seasalt silver-meat
Buried deep
In crowskin overcoat
Save your breath
This may be the last
There is no novelty here on the earth"

These sort of lyrics are very much in the Mastodon vein, and they don't always seem to mean very much, they come across like Coleridge crossed with Gary Gycax. It does work well with the haunting and idiosyncratic upwelling of guitars that underpin them though.

This is a really fantastic album, there isn't a weak point amongst its dozen tracks, highly recommended.

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