Yellow & Green

Written by: AP on 01/08/2012 13:40:59

One might argue that after two critically acclaimed masterpieces in the "Red" and "Blue" albums, both of which were grossly underrated by this webzine, Baroness have earned a creative license to do whatever they please on future releases. That the band is ambitious is no secret; the sheer wealth of ideas, layers and details present on those two albums is immense. But with "Yellow & Green", a sprawling double opus that sees Baroness venture outside of their own comfort zone and experiment with a hugely eclectic range of influences, the extent of the band's megalomania becomes even more apparent.

Prior to its recording, the band's guitar toting frontman John Baizley told us to expect the unexpected - not a rehashing of the prog and sludge stylings of the two previous efforts. And quite right, the new material places massive emphasis on the band's melodic assets, while it distances itself considerably from their metallic roots. If that summary translates poorly in your mind, then I would strongly advise you to steer clear of "Yellow & Green", lest your perception of the band's integrity be compromised. It is essentially divided into two discs, corresponding by the nature of the artwork and the mental imagery invoked to the two colours; "Yellow" is undoubtedly the more polarising of the two, thriving on extravagance and eclecticism, while "Green" takes a more subdued and melancholic approach. As such, it seems only fit to focus on the two halves individually.

Following the gentle scales of "Yellow Theme", you will be eased into the sound of Baroness reborn with a familiar prog tune complete with a sweet tapped lead in "Take My Bones Away", though without the underlying heaviness of the old stuff. But where Mastodon, Fugazi and Metallica were all cited as important sources of inspiration for the pop-infused sludge of the "Red Album" and "Blue Record", Baroness showcase an entire new spectrum of influences on this "Yellow" half, including Muse, whose theatrics are particularly audible in the galloping grandeur of "March to the Sea" and "Sea Lungs". Still, the most controversial piece on this side must be "Little Things", which rolls in with a minimalistic dance beat and reveals the band's fascination with 80's pop music with remarkable clarity. Though it is likely to be the main point of discussion here due to its mainstream appeal, the song is not as straightforward as it initially seems. In fact, the constantly evolving lead melody lingering beneath its glossy surface stands out as one of the most magnificent accomplishments on the entire album. It highlights in a unique way Baroness' ability to write songs that are as pleasing to stadium sized audiences as to true music buffs. Other notable achievements on this side are the psychedelic "Back Where I Belong", which exposes an entire new dimension to Baizley's singing prowess, and the expansive "EULA", with its patient ascent from quiet balladry to a soaring crescendo ending the half in appropriately grand fashion.

The "Green" half starts with a much longer introduction (the four and a half-minute instrumental "Green Theme"), which gradually shifts the mood from quirky and experimental to sullen and subtle as the band's blues influences begin to permeate the soundscape. The change is quite drastic, as despite the blooming pop sensibilities, many of the songs on the "Yellow" half are actually not too distant from the more uplifting songs off the "Blue Record" (such as "O'er Hell and Hide"); whereas on this half, often the most fitting reference would be Thrice circa "Beggars". In fact, another absolute highlight of the record as a whole is the touching "Foolsong", a quiet blues rock piece which recalls the anguished melancholia of the title track from that Thrice album. On the following "Collapse" and "Psalms Alive", there are strong elements of grunge, space rock and 70's prog nostalgia at play, while "The Line Between" returns a welcome touch of heavy to the bonanza. Sadly, the instrumental closing notes, courtesy of "If I Forget Thee, Lowcountry", fail to provide an impactful conclusion to this "Green" side, which, despite a selection of standout songs, winds up as less impressive than "Yellow", if only slightly.

As a final note, much praise must be directed at producer John Congleton for laying a magnificent foundation for the album, one in which no instrument or detail is lost beneath the other. The fuzzy and prominent bass sound affords "Yellow & Green" a warm and welcoming tone, while the carefully timed guitar effects send its songs spiraling through space in best psychedelic rock fashion. The percussion, which often alternates between imposing pummeling and gentle thumping, gives the music a diverse rhythmic foundation which ensures that whether you swear by the Beatles, Pink Floyd or Mastodon, there is something here for each enthusiast to relish. On the other hand, "Yellow & Green" is not an album that can be listened to with casual interest. It is a celebration of artistic freedom, and as such it requires time and patience for the sheer amount of texture, variety and talent that has been distilled into it to be divulged. Eighteen songs may seem like an overwhelming prospect, but it is necessary in order to find time for the full wealth of ideas on display here. "Yellow & Green" is another triumphant display of prowess by Baroness.

Download: Take My Bones Away, Little Things, Back Where I Belong, EULA, Foolsong, The Line Between
For the fans of: Mastodon, Muse, Thrice, Torche
Listen: Facebook

Release date 17.07.2012
Relapse Records

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