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Baroness - Gold & Grey (Album Review)

Thursday, 04 July 2019 Written by Huw Baines

Photo: Pam Strohm

It’s true that any album exists as a reflection of time and place—both who the musicians were when they recorded the thing, and what was happening on the other side of the soundproofed walls—but few capture that sensation quite like Baroness’s ‘Purple’ did.

Released in 2015, the prog-metal band’s fourth LP fizzed with huge riffs and unselfconscious melodies, providing an insight into the brittle euphoria of survival following a serious bus crash that prefaced the exits of two band members. Throughout, frontman John Baizley prized immediacy and clarity to convey complicated emotions.

Its follow up, ‘Gold & Grey’, is far happier in the murky areas where Baroness’s musical impulses overlap.

Where ‘Purple’ was largely clipped and to the point, foregrounding guitars at every opportunity, here they allow things to get a little freeform as they tackle synth palettes and a second act that strays towards open-ended ambience.

There is a feeling of give and take throughout, with some straightforwardly huge rock songs like the opener Front Toward Enemy having to play nice with fidgety, anxious instrumentals such as Can Oscura.

Baizley and lead guitarist Gina Gleason, who's tagged in following the departure of Pete Adams, pick their moments to push things over the top—see the coruscating riffage of Seasons—and these interjections play off acoustic interludes and keyboard passages that wouldn’t have darkened Baroness’s door on ‘Purple’.

There are times when the ever-shifting scenery leaves ‘Gold & Grey’ in the sort of disconnected, isolated state that Baizley’s lyrics seem to describe at many junctures—we are very much post-euphoria here.

“Alone in the southern pines, there's a place in the garden where nothing will grow,” he and Gleason harmonise on the initially spare Cold-Blooded Angels. Even the majestic I’m Already Gone, the record’s most melodically bombastic song, is bereft: “All I made were big mistakes, always went too far.”

‘Gold & Grey’ takes Baizley and company out into the unknown, but finds the band apparently comfortable with approaching whatever comes up around the next bend. Gleason, in particular, is the sort of multifaceted player who quickly becomes an ace up the sleeve given her flexibility across disparate styles.

Baroness’s roots as a face-melting metal band are receding with each release, but all the while they’re being replaced by intriguing new elements. Their back catalogue might soon resemble a mood board⁠—choose a colour to suit how you’re feeling.


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