Thursday, December 10, 2009

Baroness – Blue Record

Someone in this band has been listening to Wishbone Ash. That’s the first thing that popped into my mind after giving the new Baroness a spin. It’s not surprising since Baroness has always brought in traditional classic rock influences as well as some psychedelic stylings to their brand of metal. 2007’s Red Album (nice Grand Funk reference) was one of the better albums of that year, but Blue Record is a big improvement.

This year has seen real breakthrough albums from Mastodon and Kylesa and anticipation was high for this album. Baroness is definitely keeping pace with these bands without sounding anything like them. What the hell is going on in Georgia these days? Someone must be giving all these bands a steady supply of magic mushrooms and Mahavishnu Orchestra albums or something.

Trippy opener “Bullhead’s Psalm” is a short instrumental sounds like Robert Fripp sitting in with the Moody Blues. That doesn’t last long before they launch into a Mastodon/Neurosis stomper called “The Sweetest Curse.” Fans of heavier music will love this one and other ragers like “A Horse Called Golgotha” and “War, Wisdom & Rhyme.” Fans of more progressive styles will bug out to “Ogeechee Hymnal” and “Swollen and Halo.” The real overt Wishbone Ash influence shows up on “Jake Leg” and “Steel That Sleeps The Eye,” which bears a strong resemblance to Argus album opener “Time Was. There’s even something for the bluegrass fans out there on the acoustic picker “The Gnashing.”

The production on this album is outstanding. The tones are huge and there’s a lot of variety in the sound. The guitars crush when they need to but are also smooth and creamy when the song calls for it. The bass booms and special mention must be made for the drums. In the past, I feel that Baroness records suffered from over-active Stewart Copeland type drumming. Blue Record has greatly improved on that, probably because it’s a different drummer. The grooves are much more in the pocket and don’t distract from the song.

In a lot of ways, Baroness reminds me of Blue Oyster Cult around the time of Secret Treaties in the way they’re blending heavy metal with progressive leanings. The songs never venture into Yes territory and they’re not competing to be the heaviest band out there. And it made me reach for my copy of Argus by Wishbone Ash which is always a good thing. On tour in the USA November & December with Earthless and US Christmas.


Buy here: Blue Record

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