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Baroness – Yellow & Green

August 31, 2012

Before the actual beginning of this review, a pardon should be asked for – so, please excuse me…excuse the swearwords and please excuse the demolition of a once potentially great, promising and talented band.

But let’s begin at the beginning. Baroness, from Savannah, Georgia, were founded in the early 2000′s and released their first album, called “Red Album”, in 2007 after putting out 3 EPs. Presenting a dense mixture of Sludge, Doom, Progmetal and Postrock, the debut was highly acclaimed by the press – in the Alternative and the Metal as well as in the Progressive Camp. Kind of uniting these camps easily the music did not seem to follow any calculatio – a fortiori powerfull and atmospheric.
Gaining huge attention in the media due to their “new kid on the block” status, they began to raise their popularity by touring with well-known musical relatives such as Isis, Mastodon, Opeth, Converge and others.

But already their second record, entitled “Blue Record”, scarred and showed cracks in their masterplan. The aim seemed to involve being more straight forward, more hard-rockish, including less breaks and interesting riffing – the classic case of a “difficult second record”. Well, at least it left a slightly mouldy aftertaste and a raised eyebrow…the band found itself at the first turning point in their relatively young career.

Now, this July the band answered the questions raised by releasing their third and fourth record in one, called “Yellow & Green”. The question of course was whether there would be a turn back to the progressive touch of their debut or a continuation of the upright march into the marsh of well known and repeatedly repeated hard rock riffs?!

Well, listening to the record, the band obviously failed to answer this question correctly by choosing the totally wrong option and heading towards billboard-compatible metally pop. But let’s slow down: The cover ties in with the “Red” and “Blue” cover and also the opening of each part, “Yellow” and “Green Theme”, refer with Postrock sounds to former achievements. Then I lost faith:
The following tracks “Take my bones away” and “March into the sea” with stomping hard rock riffing and easily-recognizable melodies are so far the most boring Baroness songs ever heard, where the latter even sounds like “latter day Muse playing Opeth Songs”.
Some of the tracks on “Yellow” at least try to raise some atmosphere, e.g. the ballad “Twinkler” with acoustic guitar arpeggios and vocals, which reminds me of a sad harlequin version of Motorpsycho singing funeral songs – or the typical sludge song “Cocainium” which even contains synthie-tunes and a highly foreseeable climax culminating in a very predictable peak. The acceptable parts on “Yellow” are rare, I found exactly one in “Little Things” where in the last 30 seconds they hint at their sunken talents.

The Green one is built on the same footing as the Yellow one – also starting out with a “theme” and continuing along the same lines described in short above: One is left affected and speechless. No need to repeat the arguments. From my perspective, “Green” slightly outperforms “Yellow” since it does not leer that offensively towards billboard compatibility – “Board up the house” and “Mtns. (The crown & anchor)” are listenable before the quiet “Foolsongs” and “Collaps” resets the listeners mood to zero.

So, all in all one could turn the question asked above into “Is this still rock? Or an addendum appendix of pop hinting at rock by means of sludge?”

I love their first record. I can listen to the second one and enjoy it. The concept of this double album (or, to be more precise: two albums in the same package) is, at least as far as the names suggest, a continuation of the previous work – but this is false labeling. With sing-along choruses, the inevitable double bass and the typical American melodic bliss it is settled somewhere in the flavour-void between pop and mainstream  billboard-chart rock. Several magazines and nearly all critics are extremely positive, praising the album as well as the band for becoming grown-up and mature! Grown-up in the sense of becoming lame? Grown-up in the sense of becoming standardized? Grown-up in the sense of boring as hell? Grown-up in the sense of getting a shitload of mass appeal? Grown-up in the sense of understanding the mechanisms of rock business? Or what kind of grown-up or mature are y’all talking about?

Four talented young guys who started out to let the world listen to their tunes now degraded to playing the tunes the world wants to listen to. This is sad, an often seen change in attitude, a buckling towards the approved mechanisms – I’m out and crying!

Eduard Tetzlaff

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