Baroness – Yellow and Green – 4.5/5
There were times where I felt like the folks at Baroness were bullying me; telling me of not just one but two 'great new releases,' albums 'better than before,' and 'a whole new side to them,' taunting me with tidbits of information. Even the first two tracks from their 'Yellow' album got released a good couple of months early, leaving me jumping, desperately trying to get a good glimpse of the whole just out of my reach. Well finally they've taken pity on me and lowered their arm, releasing the album in its entirety for anyone to listen, and already people are calling this their 'move into the mainstream' and their 'selling out,' and yet the more I listen and think about this double release, the more I come to the conclusion that this is possibly the ballsiest move they could have done. If before with “Blue Album,” their Sludge influences were coming into question, now it's gone a step further, to the point I wouldn't call them metal any longer but closer to artists like Hawkwind, Pink Floyd, Astra and even Muse.
Potentially alienating their fan base knowing they were also known well enough at this stage for many naysayers to think they know what this band is all about; moving their sound further towards smooth psychedelic retro 70s vibes and away from the sludgy aggression that defines their origins; it's true, if you heard their early released tracks and didn't like the direction they'd taken then this is likely not going to be a release you'd enjoy because things don't get much more of a harder edge than that. The iconic guitar lines and roared vocal lines that they became known for have all but vanished, but what's replaced it is so much more powerful in it's simplicity. If before they could be accused of pleasantly pointless lines, meandering in a cryptic manner, then that issue has been solved once and for all; no line feels without purpose, serving only to further the shifting atmospheres and swirling melodies, masterfully harmonising and layering all the different components. Rarely will one aspect stand out above the rest, every instrument merging into a singular coherent piece that only benefits as a result.
At almost eighty minutes long, this could easily be a difficult release to digest if they hadn't so conveniently broken it down into two smaller bitesize chunks, both sides displaying their newly found craftsmanship with their similarities, yet both retaining an altogether different tone; Yellow is the day to Green's night; the sky to the earth; the hope to the depression. Inexplicably linked yet different breeds even from one another, 'Yellow' displays the last bastion of their past with the majority of their more upbeat tracks, Baizley's desperate cries and catchy hooks showing them at their most accessible. It's only when Green rolls around that you realise you're dealing with a different beast once again; a gloomier melancholic sadness; a gentler, indie, at times almost post-rock tone exuding from the plentiful guitar harmonies whistling in the background, waiting to float you away on journey of introspection and self-reflection.
There is an undeniable beauty in their compositions, a strength of emotion that rarely finds equal. Lyrics that once were hidden now stand out loud and clear; cryptic lines repeated throughout this journey force you to think and contemplate it's meaning, drawing conclusions that can only be said to be personal to yourself. Make no mistake about it, these guys have evolved, matured and mellowed; they've taken on a new form wholly different from where they began all those years ago and will lose a great number of fans in the process, and all this is despite releasing what is probably their best work to date. It's been a long wait but the Savannah boys don't disappoint; as you said on 'Take My Bones Away,' Baroness, you lead the way – and at this point I think it's safe to say that – I'll follow.
Highlights: Yellow: Little Things, Eula / Green: Collapse, Stretchmarker, The Line Between