When we talk about the bands that mix progressive and sludge metal, one can hardly avoid mentioning Baroness. Definitely one of the best known representatives of such style, alongside Mastodon. They started out as a heavier progressive outfit with the first two EPs, suitably called “First” and “Second”. Instead of naming albums by numbers, they changed their mind and decided to name them by colours! The first full-length release is called “Red Album”, the next one “Blue Record”, then “Yellow&Green”. You get the idea.
Now we have a brand new album called “Gold & Grey” released 4 years after the critically acclaimed “Purple”. By the title and number of songs, it looks like that this was intended to be a double album, but I think this refers to something else since the runtime is a little more than an hour. The album starts very strong with a heavy opener and a fitting title “Front Toward Enemy”. This, along with some other tracks, is proof that when a Baroness song hits – it hits really hard. The album certainly provides many memorable tracks. “Tourniquet”, “Throw Me an Anchor” and “Borderlines” would fit well on the band’s set list when it comes to live concerts and also have a guaranteed place among the fan favourites.
The one thing that becomes quite apparent when listening to this album is that some songs are way too loud. I know this band always aimed for an intense sound but, at moments, the murmur can be so strong that it seems like something is wrong with your speakers. The band went into a noise rock direction, which can be a very good solution when done right. But here it seems rather forced and really unnecessary at times, like they are trying to imitate Lightning Bolt or something. Again, not a bad thing to experiment with, but I think it was way more effective on the previous album than it is on this one.
Now, about the title, I personally think that it was intended as a division into a heavier and softer side. The album starting with “I’d Do Anything” goes into a mellower, ballad-driven direction and many instrumental interludes are not helping the situation either. It is like an average metal concert structure. It starts of strong with heavier songs, later on it goes into a mellower, mid-paced section, only to wake up the audience in the end with known and loved hits – and that’s all folks.
This album feel just like that. It is not that the softer songs are necessarily bad, they’re actually rather decent ballads definitely bringing diversity to the whole, but at the same time, they strip the album of all the energy. The wake up call comes in the middle of “Cold-Blooded Angels”, followed by another experimental interlude after which the album is back on track with harsh songs once again. The record stays on this path until the final song “Pale Sun”. That track has a very psychedelic vibe to it and is a rather strange choice of closer, but this band is no stranger to weird creative decisions, so we can consider it another fitting ending to a Baroness album.
This release has many quality tracks and memorable tunes. The songs are catchy for the most part and the listener can very easily immerse into the vibe. Now, the first problem is with this album is – it seems a bit too long! There are many interludes that really don’t add much to it. Despite that, the track flow is still very decent. The other problem is going overboard with experimentation. It looks like the band was trying too hard to be artistic without any valid reason. On the previous albums, they also had artistic tendencies, but it all fit perfectly with the songs and made the album feel more complete. After 4 years of waiting I was expecting much more from this band. “Gold & Grey” is a very good album nevertheless, but it’s hard to escape the impression of unused potential it leaves.
What do you think? Agree or nah? Make sure not to miss them tomorrow at Vintage Industrial Bar!