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Baroness - Yellow & Green Review

by Matt Hensch

I wouldn't have had the amazing opportunity to witness Baroness perform most of this album live had that very serious bus accident, which halted the band's activity for many months back in 2012, brought permanent woes to Baroness. In a sense their performance, played in front of about four-hundred folks gathered at the Pyramid Scheme, an awesome bar in Grand Rapids (which has a very large Baroness following for reasons I'm not sure of), had been a very cathartic, graceful cleansing for both band and audience; a brief palaver featuring one group clawing its way back from trauma and the second welcoming its return. Needless to say, the atmosphere and general array of songs featured throughout "Yellow & Green" had spiced up their live show significantly, and coming back to this album afterward has made it much more valuable.

I'm not implying you need to see Baroness live to enjoy "Yellow & Green," because that would be absurd—I'd say it merely enriched the experience. However, like Stephen King's universe and The Dark Tower series, one need not read the whole Stephen King universe to understand or even enjoy The Dark Tower series; same rules apply here. The double album released after the critically-acclaimed "Red Album" and "Blue Record" offerings in years past sees the progressive sludge machine taking a more rock-orientated approach. Baroness seemed to always have had a progressive touch, so the transition from their previous material to "Yellow & Green" is actually quite smooth and natural; few of their cohorts could pull off such a shift.
Baroness' versatility is definitely the finest quality of the release. The Savannah-based squad seems comfortable punching out heavier slabs like "Take my Bones Away" or "March to the Sea," although these are largely lighter anthems than Baroness' previous outings. It's more common to find the group exhuming rock anthems like "Collapse" or "Mtns. (The Crown & Anchor)," as the band is certainly more inclined to explore the outer dimensions of Baroness' blueprint here. As I said, the alteration in identity makes "Yellow & Green" surprising, but also a little rough at times. After all, there are eighteen songs here, some not so good.

The alt/progressive rock themes are, coincidentally, the lame ducks of "Yellow & Green." Most of these misfires are found on the second disc ("Green"), and it wouldn't be unreasonable to say Baroness could've thrown out some of this filler and rolled up one comprehensive album instead of preserving the leftovers onto two discs. The first album ("Yellow") is easily the more feasible of the two with frisky bursts of their fading sludge influence on "Take my Bones Away" and "March to the Sea" stirring up a new era for Baroness while more experimental, upbeat anthems like "Sea Lungs" and "Eula" run amok—all are introspective, important, and dynamic cuts.

"Green" has its fair share of splendor, although I wouldn't call its finer moments brilliant; most of it pales in comparison to "Yellow," frankly. The best of the bunch is "Board up the House," a snazzy rock number relying on fattening, voluptuous bass grooves and John Baizley's warm, welcoming voice. "Psalms Alive" zaps the record back to life after it comes close to diving off into space after so many mediocre alt/progressive deadbeats, and the instrumental "If I Forget Thee, Lowcountry" acts as a fantastic departure from the world painted by "Yellow & Green," a surprise hit which works better than expected.

However, it is important to emphasize one vital point: Baroness has not outdone itself here, and "Yellow & Green" is certainly the weakest of its first three full-length opuses. As I said, the whole package could've used a little shaving around the extra fatty parts, and several of these slabs sound like they're unfulfilled, trying to rise yet not given the chance to reach their absolute potentials. But again, it contains many creative, fiery anthems which usher in a new day for Baroness, one that wasn't far from the binoculars since the start of the journey. I'd call anyone dubbing this a masterwork batty, but it's a nice addition to a vibrant discography; some may say colorful, even.

Baroness - Yellow & Green


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