I’ll admit, my first thought was ‘who the fuck is Baroness?’ Before taking on this review, I gave a couple of their songs a whirl and their sound instantly transported me back to being 18 years old in one of Manchester’s finest rock clubs. So here we are!
Baroness formed in Georgia, USA, in 2003, and have seen a turnover of members that would almost make Anton Newcombe jealous. One person who has stayed constant throughout is the singer/ guitarist/ keyboardist, John Baizley. The band has been through some turbulent times. In 2012 they were involved in a coach crash in Bath, resulting in the coach hanging off of a viaduct. It seems they are incredibly lucky to be alive. They all survived but were left with some pretty nasty injuries, and minus two band members who left soon after. I imagine they were inflicted with some deep psychological wounds, too. The band has acknowledged the impact of the crash on their lyrics. There is a definite theme of survival peppered throughout their latest album Gold and Grey.
The album opens with ‘Front Toward Enemy’ which storms ahead and sets the tone for much of the record. Songs go from being headbangable, to gentle and haunting. One of my favourite things about this record is how the soft, pretty interludes are woven between the heavier songs on the album. Six of the seventeen tracks are instrumental. One of them in particular, ‘Sevens’, is gorgeous. It’s fresh, oriental, and spring-like. And definitely not what I expected to hear. ‘Sevens’, alongside the atmospheric ‘Anchor’s Lament’, sandwich the furious sound of ‘Tourniquet’. The sharp contrast is satisfying. It feels great to have that release from listening to something so heavy and defiant, but then being given the chance to step back and come down. The furious and aggressive ‘Seasons’ lyrically touches upon the band’s darker times. Some of the other instrumental tracks are more psychedelic. ‘Assault on East Falls’ has an aliens-are-landing kinda vibe, and isn’t the strongest track on the album. Another low point for me is ‘Cold-Blooded Angels’. It’s not particularly bad, it’s just a bit boring.
Gold and Grey is Baroness’s sixth studio album, and the last of a string of colour-themed album titles. The band said they never meant for the theme to go past six albums. I guess it makes you wonder what magic they’ll pull out of their next bag. As well as their music, their album artwork is noteworthy. Their latest album artwork is stunning, and reflects the past 12 years of the band’s history.
The album wasn’t instantly my cup of tea, but after lots of listens it’s definitely a grower. After hearing some of their back catalogue, I can’t say Baroness is fully to my taste, but their sound is so varied from album to album. Gold and Grey cuts across many different genres and it doesn’t sound forced at all. They meander from metal, to drum and bass, to psych, to plain old rock. There is something for everyone on the record, even your Gran. The band themselves have said they don’t set out to make each album so different, it just ends up that way.
I thought I’d be purely listening to the album for review purposes only. But I’m actually going to choose to listen to particular favourites again, multiple times! It’s a solid album that flows, and I imagine hardcore Baroness fans will love it.
Words by Kim Fernley