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Baroness - Yellow And Green
on July 17, 2012
Yellow & Green is the third full-length studio album by the Savannah based Progressive/Sludge Metal band Baroness, it was released in the summer of 2012, produced by John Congleton and is a double disc album.
Like the band's previous albums (and indeed some other Savanah based bands, including Black Tusk and Kylesa) the artwork was created by singer John Dyer Baizley. Furthermore, like the band's previous two albums Red Album and Blue Record, the discs are each given a colour theme.
Both discs open with a musical intro-theme, one for each of the two colours. For example, the first track on disc one is `Yellow Theme' which is a brief instrumental piece using some of the notes and rhythms from later on the disc.
Then, it bursts in with the ridiculously catchy single `Take My Bones Away,' which features brilliant melodic guitar lines and a memorable chorus, some keys and a brilliantly dynamic form where things build up, cut out, speed up, slow down and come in and out of effects loops. It may be shocking if you are caught off guard, but it's a phenomenal track that's every bit as memorable as `Teeth Of A Cogwheel' `Wanderlust' or `A Horse Called Golgotha,' if not more so.
Everything about the album is just a little bit bigger and better than the previous two albums. The production job is fantastic, the songwriting is a little bit more distinctive, John Baizley's vocals have improved immensely and of course there is a full seventy-five minutes worth of music to enjoy this time around.
You'd imagine that trying to absorb something so dense as a seventy-five minute album may be difficult, as with some other 70-80 minute albums, but the decision to both split the albums in two and also to lead with the more energetic stuff and let the second half hang back a bit more really works in keeping the listener's attention and gives you a logical pause point if you need one.
Stylistically, the band have actually gotten pretty far away from Sludge at this stage, and in parts far away from Metal in general. Its way less heavy than their earlier stuff, so approach this album with caution if you only want that one type of sound from Baroness.
Stylistically, there is a clear prog influence in as much as there are a lot of brilliant clean or acoustic sections, atmospheric background noises and touches of both synth and piano, as well as a few sections that center around multi-tracked vocals or chopped up passages (specifically `Psalms Alive').
There are a lot of sounds and tones that the band have explored on previous albums and EPs used too, but there are certainly a lot of surprises and things you wouldn't expect. Over the course of the whole two discs there are a diverse range of musical styles, and yet although the album as a whole is their least heavy outing to date, it still sounds unmistakably like Baroness, since they've always had at least one foot in this musical direction.
The great thing about the album is that while the album is more interesting as a result of the grander scope and prog influences, it is never obnoxiously difficult or overlong and a lot of effort has gone into still keeping the songs concise and easily digestible. Nor is it a rehash of anything that anyone else made, or any one set of genre tropes in particular, it is simply exciting and new music made by creative and talented individuals.
Highlights include the hypnotic `Back Where I Belong,' which almost evokes the spirits of both modern-Radiohead and Gentle Giant without actually sounding like them, as well as the tracks `Sea Lungs' which has an almost `Knights Of Cydonia' by Muse-esque sound in parts, the somber `Mtns. (The Crown & Anchor)' and finally `The Line Between' which along with the `Green Theme' recalls something of Thin Lizzy in the guitar department. Understand however, this record doesn't sound like a collage of other band's work or anything, those musical references are only subtle hints put through the filter of the existing Baroness sound.
Ever since the band offered this album up for streaming I wasn't able to stop listening to it and pre-ordered it pretty much instantly. It's an exciting sort of record that you can just listen to again and again, and have a new favourite track every time, as well as hearing bits of your old favourite track that you didn't pick up on the last time around.
I already liked the band's previous work a lot but this album is an improvement on that again; it may bare little resemblance to them at their Sludgiest, but it is simply such a great album that this shouldn't be a problem to all but the strictest fans. In fact, if they only put out Yellow, it would still be an amazing album and the fact that Green is as good as it is really makes this a stand out release. Just listen to the beautiful `Strechmaker' if you need convincing that Baroness made the right decision.
In summary; this is a superb album that has an awful lot to offer and one that is more instant than their previous work, but which also grows with repeat listens. If you are new to the band, I'd actually recommend that you try this album out first and work your way backwards, unless of course you only like heaviness and can't stomach anything clean, spacey or atmospheric. If you are already an existing fan and don't mind a little change in musical direction, I'd highly, highly recommend this album, its not something you want to miss out on.