By Wes Clary
Label: Abraxan Hymns
Release Date: December 18, 2015
Georgia natives Baroness is back and bigger than ever. It has been four years since their last release, Yellow and Green, and after a horrific tour bus accident in England that left nine injured, it seemed as if Baroness had come to an end. Instead, they defied the odds and returned with a release that is a heavy, hard-hitting record that will satisfy any fan of the group.
Purple is Baroness’ fourth full-length release. It is a continuation of their color-themed records that they have been using since the beginning of their career. Their first album, Red Album, was released in 2003 and was well received in the metal community, including being voted Album of the Year by metal magazine Revolver. Their popularity in the metal scene has been growing ever since. Yellow and Green, an epic double album clocking in at over 75 minutes, is considered by most to be their magnum opus. After listening to Purple, that last statement may be disputable.
Purple is the perfect concoction of metal, prog-metal and sludge/stoner metal that also has very delicate moments and melodic guitar riffs that can really groove. Sebastian Thomson’s drum performance is one of the stand out highlights on Purple. His drumming at times will sound like a power tool drilling into your skull but on songs like the instrumental “Fugue,” Thompson really brings it down to a level that can easily be compared to the calmness of Black Sabbath’s “Planet Caravan.” The opening track, “Morningstar,” is a pummeling track. You can feel the passion in lead singer/guitarist John Baizley’s vocals as he sings, “Could you lay me down with my someone/ To carry the weight / The damage I have done.” He may or may not be referring to the tour bus accident but you can tell that an underlying theme to this record has the sound of rejoice and reawakening. Bass player Summer Welch and drummer Allen Blickle both quit Baroness after the accident and Baizley was told afterwards that he would have to have his arm amputated. It looks as if whoever informed him of that was proven wrong.
Baroness’s sound can be compared to the heaviness that was popularized by Atlanta, Georgia natives, Mastodon. The track “Desperation Burns” almost sounds like a track straight out of Mastodon’s praised second record, Leviathan, with the incredibly odd guitar work from Baizley and Peter Adams and the sludge metal riffs that would make Alice in Chains proud. As I mentioned, these guys can jam at a high level and really mellow it out the following song. At first listen, the Metallica-ballad-like “Chlorine and Wine” may sound as a majestic ambient track from a movie soundtrack. When the song kicks in, Baroness takes it to a level reminiscent of the Ride the Lighting single, “Fade to Black.” Baizley cries, “Please don’t lay me down” as the track builds to a triumphant end.
With the release of Purple, it is evident that Baroness is far from done and it will take a lot more to keep Baizley and company from being brought down. Nobody knows what direction Baroness will go with their next release but if they change up the concept of their albums, Purple seems an appropriate end to a flawless string of albums.
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