When a band decides (yes, the band, not you and your fanboy mates) to make a little change in their musical approach and try out something new, a couple of things happen. Aforementioned fanboys get up in arms and take to the internet in droves or have the same conversation with different people over and over and over again about how much they hate this new style and that it’s not true to the band etc etc.... Or the older fans relish the fact their favourite band has taken a different route this time around and are challenging themselves and preconceptions of their music and will probably fight those who denounce this new path. Or, the new direction is embraced by new fans and the old guard alike and everyone lives happily ever after. Oh. Hang on. That hardly ever happens.
More often than not, there’s a fairly even split between the two camps and generally those fanatics will soon see the error of their ways. There’s a lot of entitlement in metal nowadays (well, ok, there always has been), but the information age has made it a lot easier for said people to shout about how awful things are without really delving into the reasons behind a shift or experiencing the new material as whole or realising that the band have made a record they wanted to make and not something that pleases you in particular. Bands don’t owe you anything, and if they feel like their creative course has ran but they still enjoy making music together, then fuck, let them!
This brings us nicely to the newest Baroness record(s), Yellow & Green. New songs were premiered and lo and behold, the outcry began. “Oh, it’s not what I want to hear, it’s awful, it’s shit, I can’t believe they’ve done this to me!” Of course you’re not going to please everybody but when you look at Yellow & Green for what they really are - the musical developments of a band that have already produced two genre defining records, then all will become clear. Baroness took quite a substantial amount of time to prepare and release Yellow & Green and of course the challenge of a double album is always one to be concerned about, but this band don’t do things by halves and have constantly pushed for that extra something. Here they’ve produced two astounding full lengths and whilst Yellow is a little stronger than Green, both hold within their hearts loss, despair, and a twinge of sadness coloured with the hazy warmth of remembrance and the beauty of renewed hope.
"Yellow Theme" sets the tone for this particular piece, gentle sadness washes over a peacefully picked introduction and a hidden heartbreak threatens on the edges before a burst of energy and John Baizley’s distinctly husky vocal breaks through on “Take My Bones Away.” Divine melody colours Yellow & Green and the songwriting has truly come to the fore this time around. Baizley sure can sing and holy crap he does, at times it’s almost as though he is singing for his very life and damn, it is euphoric. “Little Things” marches with a fiery bombast whilst “Twinkler” dances with beautifully plucked acoustic lines and a curious buzzing sound lays over all with a harmonic gloom. Baroness have clearly matured from the days of Red Album and Blue Record, the themes of colour giving each work an identity and it could be said that Yellow is (possibly) the sound of decay. Whether that’s decaying friendships (take heed of the lyrics of “March to the Sea in particular), relationships, connections to people and places. On the flipside, Green could be seen as a rebirth and as growth. Clever eh?
“Back Where I Belong” showcases a tight rhythm; Allen Blickle’s drums sound sublimely full and the bass crunches on just the right side of heavy with a sly and funky beat hidden behind some incredibly sorrow-filled guitar flourishes and a deeply affecting outro that leads perfectly into the punchy “Sea Lungs.” An almost punky riff kicks throughout this track and dare it be said, it’s a little Muse-like. If Muse were, y’know, good. Closing our time with Yellow is the sweetly melancholic “Eula.” Laden with a consummate sadness this track sweeps with rolling drum lines and the vocal harmonies wielded by Baizley and fellow guitarist Peter Adams hit with a powerful force. Fizzing with a rumbling and ominous presence, “Eula” plays out on layers of feedback and distraught distortion.
“Green Theme” is a tad more animated than the previous introductory piece. There’s still a forlornness running through it but this serves to bring a more uplifting tone to proceedings and the break is as wildly heartening as “Yellow Theme” was devastating. “Mtns. (The Crown & Anchor)” twangs with a subtle country vibe and the narrative strength that Baroness have grasped forcibly filters through this track with a fuzzy essence that holds a morose knowledge of the end yet somehow still feels as though there’s a redemption in sight.
“Collapse” revels in deep bass riffs and echoing touches of electronic strikes that imbue the track with a shadowy roughness before the stuttering catchiness of “Psalms Alive” rocks into aural pastures new. That country-esque edge pulses throughout the instrumental “Stretchmarker” giving it a bittersweet taste as all the best country and western does and Baroness swerve into new territory with headstrong confidence. It’s magnificent to hear and when “The Line Between” hits with a massive heaviness, the difference is so severe yet somehow completely perfect – summing up the two sides to Yellow & Green in one fell swoop.
Final track "If I Forget Thee, Lowcountry" is another instrumental piece that is full of hope and promise of new beginnings. Reflective and pure, the closing moments of Yellow & Green are blissful and envelope you in warmth and serenity. There is hope here, there is soul, and there is growth. Baroness are testament to the changes that one must go through in order to move forward. Yellow & Green is the soundtrack to life.
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