Album: Baroness, Yellow & Green
Release: July 17, 2012
Holy crap, Baroness’ next record is going to be huge. Next? Yep, next. See, I look at the career path of Baroness sort of like what happened with Muse or Kings of Leon. Now granted, neither of those bands were ever metal, but when you look back at their lifespan you can see a trajectory that Baroness is quickly approaching.
Muse put out two record in the US that went somewhat unnoticed before releasing Absolution in 2003 which put their name on the map. Then Black Holes and Revelations made them a household name in modern rock three years later. Kings of Leon released three records in the US that got critical acclaim before a massive breakthrough with Only By the Night in 2008. Now they are on the tip of everyone’s tongue. Enter Baroness as the next breakthrough band.
Metal critics have loved Baroness for years and while I’ve always thought they were good, I’ve never been on the bandwagon full force. The First and Second EP’s seemed to be a mess of noise while the Red Album and the Blue Album showed more songwriting skills and a definite progression to expanding their sound beyond just pure hard sludge. I just don’t think I found enough variation on either record to make them front to back listens like everyone else seemed to think they were. Yellow & Green surely is different than anything else they’ve done and could very well help them reach more of the masses so that the next record is simply fucking huge.
I’ve actually been kind of proud of myself for this review as I haven’t read any other critic’s take on it, just the press release. With the last few I bought into the hype and then was personally disappointed they didn’t blow me out of the water. The press release kept hinting that the band makes it a point to not make the same record twice but (maybe intentionally) never came right out and said they’ve gone alt-rock on our asses.
Yellow & Green sounds nothing like Red or Blue. Nothing. There’s certainly some metal riffage but there’s way more psychedelic moments and frankly, pop-rock that could put them on any good rock station today. I was initially worried that a double record would just get too repetitive after a while but in this case I don’t think a single disc would have captured what they were going for quite enough. I’m simply floored by the mid-tempo rock number, “Back Where I Belong,” which paired up with something like Kings of Leon’s “Sex On Fire” (or whatever the next “Sex On Fire” is) could be a deadly one-two punch and “Cocanium,” which is a swirling psych number that you can see in the future being expanded out to some crazy-ass Flaming Lips type trip out.
Three singles have already been released to what I think is very little fanfare, the harder “Take My Bones Away,” the just slightly too metal to be commercial “March to the Sea” and the beautifully epic ballad “Eula.” However, I just wonder if Yellow & Green is such a drastic turn of events for Baroness that a metal label like Relapse is going to have a bit of a hard time marketing this one. The first time I heard “Eula” was on the Sirius/XM Liquid Metal channel but this isn’t some kind of “Silent Lucidity” here – it’s not metal in the least bit. It’s a rock ballad and a damn good one at that. But it’s not “Back Where I Belong” or “Mtns. (The Crown & Anchor)” both of which could be modern rock hits without a doubt in my mind. Actually, so could “The Thin Line” which is buried as the next to last track on the Green album.
Not even counting the previously loved records, I’d say the future is very bright for Baroness but there’s so many ways it could go that it’s like one of those old choose your adventure books. I’m a metalhead but I also enjoy many types of music outside of metal, so I can totally appreciate this direction. But will people that only like metal dig it? I’m not sure of that. There’s no doubt this could be one of those times where “sell outs” is a phrase used but that’s certainly not what they are doing. Then there’s the scenario where modern rock actually picks up one of these tunes and really gives it a chance and a whole new audience falls in love with the group while the aforementioned metalheads still find enough on it to enjoy the group they’ve loved. My take, is that while radio won’t really pick up on this much, Yellow & Green is going to be in so many year end best of lists that it’s inevitable that people are going to continue to discover this probably into 2013 when they sign to a major label and put out the Turquoise record in 2014 that isn’t nearly as great as this but contains one song that’s going to be their huge break. And then I’ll flip to page 127 and get swallowed by a dragon.
This is a huge, monstrous record that you need to listen to if you like any type of rock music. My preliminary best of 2012 list is in alphabetical order right now but I can’t possibly think there would be another 10 records better that this to knock it completely off the list. It’s going to be their best record, without a doubt in my mind.
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