Ah, Baroness. If there’s one band that has sucked me in and cuddled me with fluffy, warm hugs over the past decade, it’s this amazing project. From their early, sludge-filled, Mastodon-embracing EPs, through the Red and Blue evolution records, and into their modern era of proggy, alternative, big chorus extravaganzas, I have been swept away by their huge strides in sound and direction. Their disastrous bus crash of 2012, which debilitated the entire band and put them out of commission for months, and major lineup changes over the past few years only prove their endurance and dedication (not least of all frontman John Baizley, the only remaining original member that has been through it all).
The Yellow & Green double album from 2012 was a huge departure from what had come before - not only was it vast and sprawling, but their now-signature epic choruses, catchy riffs, and prog jams were on fine display (notably on the “Take My Bones Away” and “March To The Sea” singles). Come 2015, and they unleashed Purple with new members Nick Jost on bass and Sebastian Thomson on drums - although it came under fairly heavy criticism from longtime fans craving the earlier, grittier sound, I pegged it as one of my top albums for the decade, if not since the turn of the century. It was shorter and more finely-tuned than its predecessor, songs up the wazoo, and it just takes my breath away every damn time. Monster tunes like “Shock Me” and “Chlorine & Wine” are, without doubt, classics of whatever genre Baroness now command, and as much as I was jonesing for new material, I just couldn’t imagine how they could top it.
Watch the video for the first single, “Borderlines,” here:
So, here we finally are, after months of speculating by fans and teaser singles and videos, with (what is supposedly the final in the chromatically-themed albums series) Gold & Grey. (Eager fans ought to hit this link for pre-save and digital pre-orders or the band’s webstore for tons of cool merch and physical versions.) Although not technically a double album, its length and construction with short interludes and big singles has more than a Yellow & Green vibe, including the feel of one continuous song with many, many lanes and avenues. This is the first record with Gina Gleason, the six-string phenom that nabbed the spot left open by longtime guitarist Pete Adams after bowing out in 2017, and her input is immediately noticeable through weaving legatos and glorious vocal harmonies with Baizley.
The first two singles, “Borderlines” and “Seasons,” are supported by other super-strong tracks like “Throw Me An Anchor” and “Broken Halo,” all of which build a solid foundation for the rest of the killer music at play. The short interludes are all perfectly placed and vitally interesting, the quieter moments give way to blasts of stadium-wobbling distortion, the first song (“Front Toward Enemy”) slaps you hard in the face, and the final tune (“Pale Sun”) embraces with Radiohead-esque harmonies and dreamlike pacing. Once again, multi-talented Baizley painted the ridiculously amazing artwork which highlights the colour scheme from the album title and just looks spectacular. This is the work of a band that make ALBUMS, large and solid, a serious journey from the bottom of the mountain to the highest, snow-capped peak. It’s progressive music as a package without pretension (although there is a healthy and progtastic nod to krautrock with "Can Oscura"), artists enjoying interaction, and just a blast to listen to.
And here’s the killer video for “Seasons”:
To be fair, I love the band and the music they make. As such, I probably would have found something to like even if it wasn’t their best work, but that certainly isn’t the case here. Gold & Grey is a staggering effort by a band that refuses to give up and seeks to both progress and succeed, artists that have found their niche and won’t stop until they have eked out every last drop of music that they can produce together. Where will they head from here, we wonder? Only they possibly know, but we’re the lucky bastards that will find out.
Gold & Grey Track Listing:
01. Front Toward Enemy
02. I'm Already Gone
06. Anchor's Lament
07. Throw Me An Anchor
08. I'd Do Anything
09. Blankets Of Ash
10. Emmett-Radiating Light
11. Cold Blooded Angels
12. Crooked Mile
13. Broken Halo
14. Can Oscura
16. Assault On East Falls
17. Pale Sun
Run Time: 60:29 Release Date: June 14, 2019 Record Label: Abraxan Hymns