Does a trip into Floydian atmospheres save Baroness on their fouth LP release, Purple? Not by much.
I’ll be the first to admit that I haven’t really gotten into Baroness. I know that they have some freaking awesome album covers, all thanks to frontman, John Baizley, and their sound is placed deep in the stoner metal/sludge metal corner of metaldom. Let’s say, Mastodon with a decent vocalist — well, maybe I’m getting a little ahead of myself. Baroness is a gateway band, a collection of everything that makes sludge/stoner music the delightfully muddy noise that it is. However, Baroness enjoys throwing in a little atmosphere, here and there, and their latest album, Purple, brings this experiment to the forefront.
The latest primary color record is exactly what it sets out to be: a combination of Blue[‘s] experimentation and Red[‘s] crunch. It is clear, straight off, that the band decided to take a mainstream approach to songwriting, in that the structures are simple and melodic, but thick with metal textures. Now, for the love ov God, don’t let that dreaded word, melodic, soil your skirt. For the most part, this shit is lyrically and musically heavy. By throwing down hard rockers, such as, “Try to Disappear,” and adding beautiful, production-heavy flavors in the likes of, “Chlorine and Wine,” Baroness found their formula, not quite progressing or adding anything new, but merging the pieces found across their four LP discography into a sound summary.
Album singles, “Shock Me,” and “Chlorine and Wine,” have enough melody and technicality to keep the listener interested and show the bands’ musical maturity. However, outside the more melodic, mass appealing tracks, we are served a helping of generic stoner rock/metal musings. Take album opener, “Morningstar,” for example. The track throws down some nice, sludgy riffs, but a lackluster, attempt for melody in the chorus throws the fan, and casual listener, off immediately. Not a good way to start the album.
The entire album, unfortunately, suffers in this lack of engagement. It’s nice. It’s heavy. It sounds pretty. But, have I wanted to go back for repeated listens? Not so much. And, in the world of music reviews, this is the final nail in the coffin. Maybe my vision is obscured by Neurosis, Kyuss, Mastodon, and Melvins. Maybe I’m turning into that typical, pretentious asshole again; who knows? Purple does little to add to the territory paved by their forebears, and that seems to be the overlying issue with the stoner subgenre. It’s becoming too laid back. See what I did there?
That said, the album’s production and technical value is top notch. It’s clear to the listener that Baizley and co. understand the sound board and they create beautiful, atmospheric layers that touch a variety of emotions. Again, I go to “Chlorine and Wine.” By production alone, the track transcends beyond mere sludge and brings out the collective talent of the band members. Just listen to the gorgeous intro and Devin Townsend-esque wall of sound in the track’s conclusion and you’ll see what I mean. The album’s mix also deserves attention. Each instrument is crystal clear, the guitars and drums placed at the forefront to continue that in-your-face technique.
Baroness’ fourth LP is a trip into bittersweet sludge. I want to like it, I really do, but the band deserves something more than a squeaky, polished edition of past explorations. Oh, and please feel free to check out Baizley’s artwork. It will really tie your room together.
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