Review Summary: Yellow and Green finds Baroness making the shift from bombast and technicality to introspection and atmosphere, and ultimately ending up with their masterwork.
At this point in Baroness's career, it's safe to say that the Savannah quartet has done more to polarize their own fanbase than any of their contemporaries in the burgeoning realm of southern metal, so much so that more often than not, fans of 2009's Blue Record, myself included, approached the oncoming release of Yellow & Green
with more of a sense of hopeful desperation than earnest excitement. Baroness have never been much for retreading their past output, from the tinges of swampy blues that cropped up the midst of Red Album
's riffy onslaught, to Blue Record
's rethinking of their core sound brimming with classic rock sensibilities and nods to the pseudo-backwoods bluegrass of their roots. However, whereas their previous efforts have found the band undergoing subtle sets of changes, Yellow & Green
finds Baroness nearly making a total departure from their previous work, leaving the sludgy oppressiveness of their roots far behind, but not completely forgotten.
effectively begins in much the same way as Blue Record
, with swelling effects laden guitars backing an ever evolving instrumental theme before swelling into the explosively riffy and hook laden opener that is Take My Bones Away. The energetic, guitar propelled sensibilities of Blue can be felt through the first few tracks of Yellow, as monstrous riffs couple with equally monstrous choruses, but with markedly less focus placed on instrumental prowess (though the lead work that creeps out behind the booming hooks of March to The Sea serve to disprove that statement), placing more focus instead on driving melodies and hooks, without actually giving way to a true sense of "pop sensibilities". However, this familiarity is quickly turned on its head as synthetic drums and airy guitar melodies float in, creating the initial skeleton of Little Things, which flows by languidly as John Baizley introspectively croons over it with a sense of melancholy, before the pounding drums and roaring guitar kicks in to close it out. After this 1, 2, 3 punch, Yellow gives way almost completely to the introspection and melancholy hinted at by the openers.
As the initial raucousness of the opening resolves, the true nature of Yellow & Green
becomes exponentially more clear, as the thick instrumentation, roaring vocals, and cryptic lyrics of previous releases give way to synthetic, airy atmospheres, warm and purposefully orchestrated vocal harmonies, and introspective themes, as the haunting vocal melodies and demure mood of Twinkler roll into the galloping, psychedelia of Cocanium. Green takes these same ideas and runs wild with them, evidenced by the stuttering electronic beats of Psalms Alive and the sullen trudging of Board up the House. Still, though the sludgy, riff laden heaviness of past cuts like Tower Falls and Isak are all but gone from Yellow & Green
, the oppressive nature that has always been at the core of Baroness is still very much intact, though more in aesthetic than blunt attitude. As airy and synthetic as the production in tracks like Cocanium, Psalms Alive, and Stretchmarker may be, the sense of envelopment and immersion that Baroness has always conveyed is still there in spades.
In essence, Yellow & Green
finds Baroness making a departure from their previous sludgy aesthetic, whilst simultaneously reinforcing the attitudes and themes that have always been at the core of their sound. By doing away with the riffy savagery and mountainous bombast of the past and instead focusing on introspection and their inherently restless creativity, Baroness has both made arguably the most genuine progression of a band within their sphere in recent memory, and coincidentally crafted their masterwork thus far.