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Review: Baroness – Yellow & Green
Trichromacy has humans using three primary colours in conjunction with the three independent channels used in conveying colour information. These primary colours are combined and coerced and extended to form a wider range of more interesting colours.
Each album in Baroness’ trichromatic archive, consisting of Red, Blue and the new Yellow & Green, can be mapped to the connotations of its primary colour.
Red, Baroness’ debut album, is aggressive and dangerous. Its molten sludge oozes beneath blazing melodies as Baizley’s volcanic vocals tears through the solid rock of Baroness’ rhythm section.
Blue flows freely between the tranquil and tempestuous. Its icy twin guitar melodies crest atop the crashing waves of Blickle’s drums and Baizley’s vocals sound calmer, less fiery than before.
Throughout their career Baroness have never lingered. Just as Red refined the sounds of the band’s EPs, Blue smoothed Red’s rougher edges and drew influence from further afield. The trajectory of Baroness’ career suggests their new effort, Yellow & Green, will be more welcoming of influences from outside its previously explored sonic territory.
Yellow & Green is musically and textually broader than anything the band has produced, combining colours to create a wider spectrum of influence than that showcased on Red and Blue. Baroness have shed their metal armour to produce a nimbler, more expansive, more fluent album that is mostly mellow and at its best is rustic and sumptuous, but at its worst is turgid and bland.
The blistering frequencies of Baizley’s voice have been further preened and when successful Baizley is able to deliver huge hooks with great poise, but these vocals are prone to lapses in quality. Though the album hits hard in places, it never reaches Baroness’ bellowing best.
At times Yellow & Green breezes and flurries beautifully but it rarely reaches gale force.
The album is split into two discs, each featuring nine songs. Yellow opens with the lilting ‘Yellow Theme’ before assaulting listeners with the single ‘Take My Bones Away’, the hardest track on the record. Following the sun-kissed ‘March To The Sea’, ‘Little Things’ is mostly forgettable until it’s redeemed by a guitar solo that sounds as if its melting beneath some colossal heat. Producer John Congleton’s presence is prominent throughout the album. On standout track ‘Cocainium’, dreamlike guitar intermittently breaks through the cloud of the rhythm section and bathes the song in light until a bitcrushed snare ushers in an unusual percussive groove.
The muted snare sound is just one example of Congleton’s experimentation. Another example is found on the huge ‘Sea Lungs’, as the song breaks and guitar oscillations sweep and shimmer like the sun on the sea. “Eula” is a confident and powerful finale, a breezy ballad that’s eventually crushed by rolling rhythms and smothered by insane science-fiction guitar solos. Green’s opening “Green Theme” meanders before eventually exploding and leading into ‘Board Up The House’. Sure to be a success live, the song features one of the album’s most successful hooks, delivered with assured vocals.
Delicate guitars progress toward a drum part bordering on hip-hop on ‘Mtns. [The Crown & Anchor]‘, which features another example of Baizley’s vocals rewarding the listener with a cordial hook. On ‘Collapse’ guitars ripple across the stereo field, accompanied by electronic surges and LFOs. ‘The Line Between’ teases with its weight before pulling back and eventually unfolding into the plush reverberance of the finale, ‘If I Forget Thee, Lowcountry’.
Though Green is probably more diverse and more interesting, it lacks the attempted anthems of Yellow. Both have strong highlights and each manages to be both hypnotic and bland, often in the space of a single song. Congleton’s contribution is of great importance. Without the unusual textures and tones offered by his production much of Yellow & Green would be completely forgettable.
John Baizley’s vocals often fall flat trying to hit the huge, anthemic hooks many of the tracks are structured around, such as on ‘Psalms Alive’ where the harmonies do nothing to aid the song. Though when Baizley’s vocals sound good, such as on ‘Collapse’, they sound great.
The varying quality of vocals and hooks suggest Baroness have yet to perfect the art of penning the anthem. While Red and Blue do not explore far beyond their primary colours or their connotations, Yellow & Green is more ambitious, embracing and combining colours, sounds and frequencies from places in the spectrum the band has not reached before.
The result is an interesting mix of sounds with as many insipid moments as highlights.
Yellow & Green is out now, for more info visit www.facebook.com/YourBaroness