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Baroness: Yellow & Green

Say it ain't so? Have sludge darlings Baroness forsaken the 'metal' and embraced a more alternative/psychedelic/post rock style on their latest release Yellow & Green? That does indeed seem to be the case here on this sprawling double album. Gone are the screams and the thunderous riffs, replaced with smooth melodic vocals, catchy harmonies, and shimmering guitar chords. Not the Baroness you've come to love you say? Well, despite the drastic changes here (and much of this was hinted at on their last release Blue Records) Yellow & Green is a pretty solid affair for what it is, which is a solid modern rock album.

The guys from Georgia have fully embraced pop and traditional rock music on Yellow & Green, so much so that songs such as "Back Where I Belong", "Take My Bones Away", "Psalms Alive", and "Eula" don't sound at all like they were recorded by a band that previously delivered some seriously heavy music. Not that there aren't some more powerful tunes here, like "Cocainium" for instance, but for the most part this is some pretty laid back material. "Board Up the House" has a jangly, bouncy feel to it that would seemingly appeal to any fan of alternative rock radio, and "Foolsong" is a well crafted slice of melancholy pop music. Metal it certainly is not, but I think that was the point.

Overall though, the majority of Yellow & Green just seems to be stuck in 1st & 2nd gear, and a good portion of the album has that 'samey' feel and is just so laid back that one track seems to segue into the next without much variation happening. And, let's face it, if you are going to release a double album you had better grab the attention of the listener and hold on to it. Despite moments of brilliance, I can't say that Yellow & Green worked from top to bottom during this very long and somewhat bloated double album. Will they find a new audience with this release? No doubt, but they will also leave a lot of loyal fans scratching their heads in bemusement.

Track Listing
Disc 1:
1. Yellow Theme
2. Take My Bones Away
3. March to the Sea
4. Little Things
5. Twinkler
6. Cocainium
7. Back Where I Belong
8. Sea Lungs
9. Eula

Disc 2:
1. Green Theme
2. Board Up the House
3. Mtns. (The Crown & Anchor)
4. Foolsong
5. Collapse
6. Psalms Alive
7. Stretchmarker
8. The Line Between
9. If I Forget Thee, Lowcountry

Added: July 19th 2012
Reviewer: Pete Pardo
Related Link: Band MySpace
Hits: 2749
Language: english

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Baroness: Yellow & Green
Posted by Murat Batmaz, SoT Staff Writer on 2012-07-19 12:16:08
My Score:

By now, anyone remotely interested in the music of Baroness must have heard that Yellow & Green is a drastic departure from their dirge-like sludge metal days. Some might miss the throaty, pain-ridden vocals that were underscored by mountainous riffs, but on the other hand, they may also be pleased to find out Baroness places more emphasis on the whole picture here, showing their willingness to craft songs rather than riffs, and achieving melodic flow rather than single-minded aggression.

The band is now dabbling with softer sounds, offering melodic constructs and a knack for building atmosphere. Tracks like "Twinkler" and "Eula" will immediately stand out on first listen; they're deliberately slow-paced and informed by detailed sound shapes. The harmonized vocal parts, extended acoustic interludes, and subtly building keyboard themes suggest Baroness have completely shed their earlier influences in favour of a simpler but equally riveting 'rock' sound. While the Red Album and Blue Record had the riffs, this one has the songs.

In a sense, the stylistic shift in Baroness' direction and composition could be likened to that of Mastodon after their Blood Mountain album. However, what Mastodon gave us after that disc was the progressive masterwork Crack the Skye, which was not only embraced by a new fan base but also indicated their desire to grow into a tighter force focusing on composition and production. Then, they released The Hunter, which was met with more mixed reviews, though the album was still received well by their core fan base. To me, Yellow & Green marks a similar shift in direction, except that it skips the middle step (Crack the Skye) and directly jumps into a very new sound world.

It is this change what some of Baroness' older fans may dislike, especially on first listen. I was personally baffled when I first heard these tunes, but repeat plays proved immensely rewarding. For starters, the production job by John Congleton gives the album its deserved clarity. It does not hide a single note, even during the songs' heaviest and punchiest moments. The chorus of "Take My Bones Away" would have sounded bland and lifeless if it was mixed differently. Here, it carries a melodic weight and purpose to it; one can't help but pay attention. Of course, this is no part to the spectacular song arrangements across the album.

Compared to its sister album, Green is less accessible and more experimental. Choruses are eschewed in favour of establishing moody soundscapes and a southern rock-like aura. The touches of synths and piano lend the passages depth. The acoustic guitar playing is subtle and almost ghostly. Elements of texture are thrown in the mix during the quieter moments, which heighten the scope of tunes like "The Line Between" given their more direct and in-your-face approach.

Perhaps John Baizley's clean vocals are not his best yet. Mind you he has changed from a very aggressive delivery to one where adding the compositions nuance is paramount, and honestly the vocals were never Baroness' strongest aspect even on their earlier releases. Their strength more so lay in crafting unique riffs and melding them with pulverizing guitar work and rhythmic schemes. On this album, due to its nature, these elements are largely absent, as it seeks to highlight vocals, hooks, and melody over instrumentation.

Ultimately, this double album has definitely forged a new path for Baroness, and how this change will sit with their fan base remains to be seen. What many should acknowledge, though, is that this experiment is a success and they could get much better at it on the next album.

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