Baroness
Purple

The tragic events which nearly cost Georgia’s Baroness their lives has been well documented, so I won’t bother rehashing the dramatic circumstances here. Needless to say the emotional and physical scarring the members endured fractured the band and left frontman/guitarist John Baizley and Pete Adams (guitars, vocals) to pick up the pieces and resurrect Baroness. Thankfully the impressive resilience and determination of the duo has resulted in the triumphant release of the band’s fourth LP, Purple. With new members Nick Jost (bass) and Sebastian Thomson (drums) on deck and admirably holding down a rock solid rhythmic foundation, Baroness return sounding as tight as ever and ready to put the turmoil behind them and press forward.

Baroness virtually abandoned their metal roots with their at times patchy but frequently excellent 2012 double album, Yellow & Green. Perhaps it lost some of the less open-minded factions of their fanbase, but for others it was a much needed step in their evolution following the disappointing Blue Record. Purple continues in a similar vein to its immediate predecessor, fusing muscular heavy rock with psychedelic flourishes and playful prog.  Wisely Baroness have trimmed the fat and released a far more potent and concise album. There’s once again a keen focus on crafting huge, addictive choruses and anthemic grooves, but the heavier riff driven punch of their earlier work is more present, delivering a finely honed balance between their past strengths and the accessible hookiness that worked so well during the best parts of Yellow & Green.

“Morningstar” opens the album with raucous energy, with the catchy crunch of the main riff sounding as though it could have been lifted from the Red Album. From here onwards Baroness deliver nugget after nugget of song-writing gold, from the anthemic charge and emotive pop hooks of “Shock Me”, to the high octane, sludgy prog-rock energy of “Kerosene”,  and tender, nerve-poking edge of “Chlorine and Wine”. There’s a defiance and urgency within these songs, many of which resonate strongly on an emotional level, yet bristle with hopeful optimism and the brimming positivity which can sometimes follow tragedy. Vocally Baizley sounds more confident than ever with his burly and melodic delivery sensibly staying within the confines of his vocal limitations. Meanwhile Baizley and Adams steer the ship with their textured guitar work, affecting melodies and rugged riffs incorporating shades of psych, prog, sludge and classic rock, occasionally complimented by the tasteful use of keyboards.

As good an album as Purple is, and make no mistake this is some of the band’s best work to date, unfortunately it’s marred by a subpar and at times infuriating production job. The mastering is atrocious, smashing the dynamics and creating an unnecessarily compressed and claustrophobic effect that seriously dulls the album’s impact. To top it off, the drums sound canned and lifeless, adding further insult to injury. In the end Purple is too damn good to be swallowed by its production flaws, but it is a massive hindrance to the album and a real downer to an otherwise superb release.

Purple is a kaleidoscopic sprawl of dynamic and emotional heavy rock and masterful song-writing, continuing the ongoing evolution of the Baroness sound and marking a powerful statement of intent and unity which should catapult the band further into stardom.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Luke Saunders
January 6th, 2016

Comments

  1. Commented by: Nick K

    Spot on review Luke. Well done!


  2. Commented by: Luke_22

    Thanks Nick. It really is an awesome album, marred by shitty production.


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