Review Summary: In-depth review of Baroness' first 2 EPs, "First" and "Second"
Baroness are a band that always amaze me. The first album of theirs I heard being "Red Album", I thought I had an idea what to expect when I purchased these EPs. I didn't. Where the "Red Album" is aggressive and catchy, these albums are heavy and contemplative.
The fact is, these 2 albums possess something that future releases by Baroness, or even Mastodon, or Isis, for that matter, can never hope to accomplish. These albums are timeless. The songs are incredibly organic sounding. They drift, they meander, they never really evolve toward a goal, but they flow smoothly between crests and troughs, building to climaxes and falling again to calm, ambient sections. The songs have an unmistakable human quality, while remaining very earthy and natural.
The first 3 songs make up "First". These songs do not differ too much from the later 3, but there are a few minor stylistic changes. These songs do not "chug" as much as the next 3 do, but rather adopt a very bassy low-G bend with higher powerchords on the fourth and fifth strings, gliding in and out, during the verse/breakdown parts, and melodies are generally played during bridge-ish sections, using advanced powerchords and progressive melodies that manage to be catchy as well as deep. The songs are complex to an almost Mastodonish level. In fact, there is a mathematical idea behind nearly every time signature change, that generally go unnoticed by the casual listener, leaving him to wonder, "How do they do that?" The earthy melodies and startlingly deep lyrics only serve to deepen the organic feel and enhance the timeless quality, and the a-melodic vocals are delivered semi-intelligibly. Distorted powerchords slide into shrill guitar harmonies, and every song has several different riffs, with no traditional structure, even occasionally dropping the higher-gain distortion for a cleaner overdrive to build tension or suspense. Grouped with that, the lyrics are pure poetry, making these 3 tracks very strong, and every song is an incredibly enjoyable listen.
The next 3 songs here are very strong tracks, much like the first 3. These songs are definitely more dreamy and probably more interesting than the 3 songs that precede them, but I wouldn't say that they're better. This half was recorded live, so every song flows into the next perfectly and seamlessly, over some rather interesting ambience, riding over cymbals and hi-hats, while the guitar plays psychedelic, overdriven chords. In fact, some of the funnest music on the album is during the cymbal-driven glides, while the guitars come closer, closer, and closer yet to playing the melody that will make your neckhair stand on end. When these songs are in full stride, the kick-drums are almost always going full-speed, under staccato-style palm muted guitars and galloping bass. They never stay in place long enough to become comfortable, and it suits this type of music very well. The guitar effects used are extremely well-placed, never complicating music unnecessarily, and always making it more interesting. The melodies are very catchy, more so than on "First", but less meaty, and they aren't as substantial. The sludge is here, the humanity is here, but the sinewous quality, the earth, the muscle, is all but gone.
Almost everything about this duo is amazingly addictive. The southern-style melodies, the great chugging riffs, the gratingly shouted vocals. The casual listener will hear this and say, "Wow, that's really good." The deeper listener can appreciate the depth of the music, understand the soul, chew the meat, and gaze into the eyes of Father Time himself, who can no more touch this album than you or I.
"Have you ever seen scarlet day
Or touch the callused hands of age?
You till the ground, and bring to home,
Muscle flesh, and blood to bone.
Taste the oaken grain
Grab its horns, not the reigns."
---"Rise", performed by Baroness