Review Summary: Something old, something new, something borrowed, and something "blue."
It’s difficult to look around the metal world (and in some cases outside) and not see Baroness’ John Baizley and his distinctive art. Approaching many of the album covers his work adorns with a mystical beauty, the women and animals he creates may not be entirely realistic, but look convincing all the same. His music, on the other hand, is quite the opposite. While his incredibly detailed paintings feature a sense of wonderment, the music he creates with Baroness is actually rather practical and all together completely sensible. As the years have progressed, the band has been growing past their roots, slowly dropping the sludge-tinged southern metal that defined them on Red Album
. With the ambitious double Yellow & Green
, however, Baroness have adopted a sound that is not so immediately gratifying, but much more indicative of the art that represents it.
As the name suggests, Yellow & Green
is split into two eponymous parts, with nine songs each. Yet the two sides are very different, not only from each other but from the rest of Baroness’ discography. As stated previously, the band has shed much of their previous influences and opted for a sound that could almost be described as exclusively “rock.” Much like last year’s The Hunter
and this year’s Harmonicraft
, Yellow & Green
feels almost poppy compared to what came before it. Certainly the catchy hooks and melodies don’t do much to change this notion either.
Of the two sides, “Yellow” is more like older Baroness albeit with that aforementioned “rock” sound. After a lulling opener “Take My Bones Away” enters with one of the album’s most instantly rewarding tracks. It’s heavier than most of what comes to follow, but the progression and composition are unique in that it constantly shifts. Whether it’s the methodical climax or the chugging build, the song is always interesting and the perfect example of the sound found on “Yellow.” There are a few surprises to be found for sure, mostly in the form of “Twinkler” and “Cocainium.” Both are very subdued, and while the former is simply slower, the latter feels more psychedelic tinged with a warm and encompassing atmosphere. All of this feels like a buildup to something much more different than the opening songs. For the remainder of the record, “Yellow” still has the same style, but the atmosphere and mood is greatly different; a more absorbing and experimental approach that acts as a fantastic transition towards “Green.”
“Green” starts much in the same way as “Yellow,” although the opener is quite a bit more fleshed out. The bolder approach feels very relevant to this record’s more “epic” tone. For those familiar with Blue Record
, “Board Up the House” will feel recognizable. The rest of the album, however, differs greatly due to a very different direction. The aforementioned psychedelic and experimental influences are much more prominent on “Green.” A lot of this experimentation seems to have gone into each of the songs’ atmospheres, with the production being finagled so that each song sounds inherently different from the last. This bold move has paid off greatly with “Green” being more instantly memorable despite being far less approachable. Some of the album’s most impressive and exciting moments are here, with “Psalms Alive,” “The Line Between,” and even the interlude “Stretchmarker” housing some very awe inspiring moments.
Although many of these changes in sound and direction are welcome, Yellow & Green
is not without its faults. Baizley has always been one of modern metal’s more gratifying voices with his odd “scream/shout” vocals standing out as wholly unique and enjoyable. Better yet, his penchant for experimenting with cleans on Blue Record
lent itself to a bevy of different sounds that came off as incredibly varied. Here Baizley has opted out of his harsher vocals, and because of this he only appears to have one or two notes. Although the styles of both albums are very different, Baizley is the one constant which feels like a missed opportunity with such a dynamic track list. And with such a large set of songs, there are some misses as to be expected. While there aren’t any egregiously terrible songs, selections such as “Sea Lungs” and “Foolsong” seem as though they could have used a little more care.
Yellow & Green
is a fascinating record in that there is a hell of a lot going on here. What it lacks in consistency it makes up for in ambition that pays off well in the long run. Despite its lengthy runtime it never feels like the bloated chore that many expected, and that in itself is quite the achievement.