A decade into their career, BARONESS continue to take chances. Exactly 10 years ago on July 17th, 2012, BARONESS released “Yellow and Green,” a lyrically introspective and sonically expansive effort that is perhaps less metal and more rock. It would test metalheads looking for ferocity in stacks of ear-shattering amps, but for longstanding fans who’ve seen BARONESS evolve into a more classic-rock and progressive band, the journey should make sense.
The double album is split into “Yellow” and “Green” parts. “Yellow” is a concept album, with a heavier and more melodic sound, and follows the story of two unnamed addicts, opening in the throes of a fruitless struggle for sobriety. “Take My Bones Away” is a SOUNDGARDEN mutant of a song, gigantic and catchy as hell. The pounding “March to the Sea” and very vaguely FLEETWOOD MAC sounding “Cocainium” are also standouts. The sickly bass tone contributes to the suspense in “Little Things.” Here, BARONESS accomplishes the incredible trick of creating a sound palette that supports the dismal subject matter while never becoming difficult to listen to. The gloom pervades but does not suffocate the listener… that is, until we reach “Yellow“‘s closing run—”Back Where I Belong” lurks into a full-on relapse, building a sense of inescapable dread from the solo through a triumphant middle-8, all the way to a blissful, impressionistic outro. That the band parcels out the heart-swelling major melodies that have been so thin on the ground for the last few tracks can only ring as ominous. “Yellow”‘s final track, “Eula,” is a slow-building epic, more of a cathartic outpouring than a structured song, and probably the overall highlight of the set.
The album “Green” is not a concept album. Sure, it addresses many of “Yellow’s” thematic and aesthetic concerns, but I’ve never garnered much in the way of a narrative structure, or even a very consistent lyrical voice, in the years I’ve spent listening to it. It is a place where BARONESS might go, revisiting and contemplating the sound worlds they are creating. Overall, there is probably less to say about these tracks, but make no mistake: they stand up just as well as individual pieces and are no less important in understanding “Yellow & Green.“
The opener, “Green Theme,” blends austere sorrow with crisp guitar heroics. With its ’70s hard-rock riffs and mountain-thunder drumming, “Board Up the House” should please “Blue Record” lovers. With laid-back acoustic guitars and swirling effects across the channels, “Mtns. (The Crown & Anchor)” and “Collapse” also stand out. Despite the countless similarities to other artists and eras, BARONESS‘s purpose remains the same: to move forward. The victorious “The Line Between” concludes the record with a roar, shattering its jittery initial 2 minutes. As haunting and wonderful as ghostly prog/psych excursions like “Foolsong” and “Stretchmarker” are, similar material could have been less gratifying and more cumbersome after “Yellow’s” entire album. As it stands, the rougher stuff retains “Yellow“‘s drive and urgency, while the soft, sorrowful ballads add a welcome variety and tonal depth that uncovers new colors and intricacies in BARONESS‘ musicianship and storytelling.
I have always liked the elegance of the group’s idea of primary color schemes as topical, clearly-delineated ways to make each album feel like a whole. Colors are unnecessary here, more than anywhere else. These tracks, from both albums, work well together even without a framework. Tracks bounce off each other, creating echoes, and then continue. Each disc stands alone as a strong document; combined, they truly deserve the moniker “epic.”
Written by Peter Jerman
- Yellow Theme
- Take My Bones Away
- March to the Sea
- Little Things
- Back Where I Belong
- Sea Lungs
- Green Theme
- Board Up the House
- Mtns. (The Crown & Anchor)
- Psalms Alive
- The Line Between
- If I Forget Thee, Lowcountry
John Dyer Baizley – lead vocals, rhythm guitar, bass, keyboards
Pete Adams – lead guitar, backing vocals
Allen Blickle – drums