Baroness – Blue Record – 4/5
In the battle between the prog sludge titans, this is the side I fight for. On one side of the bottomless pit lie Baroness; with meandering, ever changing song structures and simplistic, thick atmospheric riffs, and on the other lies Mastodon; taking that prog-influenced technicality shown in their musicianship, they perform simplistically structured songs. Both sides tackle things very differently with unique results, and with the critical acclaim garnered for their perhaps ‘Coheed-ified’ sounding album “Crack the Skye,” demonstrating a departure from their thicker toned sludge tones to more melancholic waters, believe that I would love to come out and say just how mind-numbingly brilliant this album is. But sadly, it isn’t.
From a technical perspective each of the musicians perform as well as before; in fact for the majority they surpass previous efforts. The riffs come more fluidly, displaying a greater variety of styles than ever before whilst maintaining that essential groove, unafraid to show what they are capable of. The drums accent this work superbly, maintaining the beat in an ever changing array of beats and fills, merging within the composition of the track to enhance the overall psychedelically toned atmosphere. The bass can be subtly heard behind the guitars laying the foundations and the vocals soar over the top with a never-tiring roar.
For anyone already acquainted with this artist you’ll find the musicians have lost nothing in their individual abilities, but where it falls short is in the actual song composition. If the title ‘Red Album’ didn’t make itself overtly apparent as to why such a title was chosen, with this – the ‘Blue Record’ – the reason becomes clear. Gone are the aggressive fits of rage that tormented the last, the slow climactic build-up to the big finish vanished from the song compositions, and this for me presents my major gripe. It’s interestingly written but feels altogether too melancholy, too ‘nice.’ No stronger descriptor feels fitting, it’s present but altogether leaves a sense of pointlessness to it; their abilities remain but the energetic passion seems to have dwindled resulting in an odd air of futility to the proceedings.
Flowing seamlessly through its entire length, the album feels like a complete entity and, don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a bad album – in particular the guitars show an increased level of technicality in their playing whilst maintaining a groove that never fails to have you tapping your feet – it’s simply lacking a certain impact or memorability to the end result that set their previous work slightly ahead. With little in the way of truly standout tracks, this is unquestionably a grower; as the unusual beat structures of the intoxicating rhythms sink in, they take a stronger hold on your attention. Fans can expect more technicality, and nay-sayers may take solace in the shorter tracks and album, but ultimately this is one release that just falls short of their last.
Highlights: Jake Leg, Swollen and Halo, Horse Called Golgotha,