Review Summary: Second is an EP of transition for Baroness
Baroness are a personal favorite of mine, releasing both the incredible Red Album, and First. My personal opinion is that First trumps Red album in every way possible, from musicianship to songwriting, and it's only fault really being it's ridiculously short length. In fact if it was made into a full length LP it would definitely would have launched Baroness into metal stardom, much as Mastodon's Leviathian did for them. Red Album is different than First, using shorter song lengths and a more southern influence, along with Isis like periods of ambiance. While these new influences created an amazing concoction, it was just not quite as good as First.
Since both Red Album and First are so good a person would not be blamed for assuming that Second, Baronesses second EP, is just as good as the rest of their discography, well you would be wrong. Not “i bet this decaying rope bridge with a river full of hungry crocodiles underneath is perfectly safe to drive my Hummer with attached u-haul full of bowling balls over” wrong, but more like, “I bet this semi-rusted bridge with unicorns wearing almost ridiculously sharp horns in a pit underneath is safe to lightly walk over” wrong. This... really stupid metaphor is attempting to say that Second is not up to par with Baronesses other works, but is not that bad.
The musicianship on this album is similar to First, but with a few key differences. The Bass really has not changed much since First, providing audible bass lines that are both pretty and provide that foundation that the other instruments so badly need to build off of. (unless your Pig Destroyer). The drums are a bit more prevalent here than on First, allowing for more wonderfully executed fills. Not too much to say about the vocals except that they are still the vocals from First, full out screams and growls instead of the horribly grating hollers from Red Album. I still think that the vocals utilized here and on First work better with Baronesses music, they play music that is loud and aggressive, and so should the vocals. Also, no, hollers are not aggressive, they are just annoying and sour the rest of the music by being the indecisive middle ground between screams and clean singing, either is fine just pick one!
The guitar parts on First were crammed full of imaginative riffs that were never overplayed, and more importantly, the guitarists delivered these parts well, and were never overpowering, allowing the other band mates to shine. The guitarists still never overpower the other instruments on Second, but the fast riffs that were imaginative? Well, Second is the beginning of a new style that is utilized here and on the Red Album, which is a hint of post metal. This basically means that there are periods of ambiance thrown into the mix to spice things up. The riffs are played slower, and repeated quite a bit more than on First, especially on Son of Son and Vision. This is really too bad to because Red Sky was basically was a continuation from First and clearly the best song here being that it retains everything that made First so great.
As this is a semi-major stylistic shift for the band, the songwriting has suffered, quite a lot actually. While Red Sky is great, it is not the new style that Baroness were going for on the last half of Second, and so along with the next song Son Of Son came some problems due to that stylistic change. For one the transition to the ambient section is very abrupt and awkward. The ambiance itself goes on far too long and ends with another awkward shift to playing that was similar to the beginning of the song and it just repeats until it's conclusion. The whole thing feels rushed and forced together, and is weak overall when you look at all the other great songs Baroness have put out. Some problems along this vein remain for the last song Rise, like overplayed riffs, but it a massive step up than Son of Son while still successfully playing a more Isis influenced style of playing.
Overall Second is an EP of transition for Baroness. It may not be as good as their other efforts, but it is still Baroness and they will probably never put out something completely crap and this is no different. Second on a whole represents a shift toward the style of the Red Album, yet still retains influence from First. The best way to describe this album is something my African-American classmate tells me whenever he scores a 'B' on a test, “solid.”