Baroness
Gold and Grey


5.0
classic

Review

by Musefan58867 USER (1 Reviews)
November 11th, 2020 | 29 replies


Release Date: 2019 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Baroness's Gold & Grey isn't just the band's best work to date, it's one of the greatest rock albums of the 2010s.

The divide between critics and fans seems to be widening the further we get into the 21st century in all forms of art, and especially in bold sequels. Whether it’s movies like Star Wars: The Last Jedi, or videogames like The Last of Us Part II, media coverage is becoming as polarized and opposed as the political landscape of the world we live in. The music equivalent of this phenomenon is Baroness’s Gold & Grey, released last year to universal critical acclaim and fan shame. Like the above examples, the elements of the album that the critics loved were ones the fans hated, and like those other examples, it was undeservedly shat upon because of it.

That’s not some slight against fans, mind you. First impressions can color our thoughts on things for all of time, no matter how much better the rest of your experience is. For many of these media pieces, that first impression was bad on its face, misleading for one reason or another, or influenced greatly by one loud viewpoint. It’s easy to get caught up in a landslide of echo chamber opinions without even getting a hand on the subject itself these days, and just as easy to whip out a quick writeup in order to cash in on current trends, but, like a newborn child, the strongest opinions that stand the test of time are the ones given proper time to form and develop before being revealed. Classics like John Carpenter’s The Thing and Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty were reviled upon release, and took decades before being given their proper respect and consideration for similar reasons, and Baroness’s latest output is a victim of this quick consensus, especially in terms of its production and mixing.

Dave Fridmann's production and mixing take the band's unique blend of progressive rock and sludge metal into new psychedelic places that utilize dynamics and noise masterfully, and it’s not an accessible or conventional style either; the everchanging panning of the instruments and vocals alongside the prominence of the bass and drums in the mix serve to disorient the listener and immerse them in the emotional heart of the record. John Dyer Baizley and Gina Gleason’s guitars cut through to deliver the band's signature melodic hooks while Nick Jost’s standout basswork and chemistry with Sebastian Thomas’s powerful and technical drumwork drive the band, but with an intensity, tension, and catharsis that a traditionally clean mix could never deliver.

This mix was confusing and off-putting at first listen, with clipping blastbeats, fuzzed out drums, guitars that almost blend into the noisy ambience at times, and a low-end so booming you’d think this was The Marshall Mathers LP. It’s a bold choice to say the least, and for some, it makes for a painful listening experience, but it’s how you approach the mix that lets you appreciate it or hate it. Don’t go looking for the sound of Blue Album, Yellow & Green, or even Purple. Those albums had completely different intentions from what is effectively a different band. Look at the sound of this record like you would Boris’s Pink or Have A Nice Life’s Deathconsciousness, where the obscured elements, the noisiness, and the overpowering distortion gives weight, tension, even mystery to some moments. Make no mistake, this is not some amateur’s inability to access good recording equipment or sheer incompetence driven by a producer’s reputation. The cloudy gray moments only serve to brighten those golden highs, and the amazing vocal performances of Baizley and Gleason alongside their intricate layering in such an intense mix can't be replicated or bested in any live performance.

The vocals sound distant but distinct in cuts like "Broken Halo" and "Throw Me An Anchor", but other times can be clear and intimate in highlights "I'd Do Anything" or the haunting "Emmett - Radiating Light". Gleason establishes herself as a powerful driving force for some of the most powerful moments on the record as her vocals harmonize with Baizley's at pivotal moments; the desperate cry at the end of "Broken Halo" and the climactic, engulfing tornado of sound ending the vocals rise above on "Seasons" perfectly embodies the turbulent times and lasting hope the lyrics portray.

Speaking of which, the lyrics are some of the most evocative and emotional the group has penned thus far, with tales of color fading, imminent disaster, and breaking bones. All this dark and violent imagery sits alongside pale suns setting and lights shining down. It contains this intriguing and compelling contrast between the natural and unnatural, the destructive and healing, and a self-loathing versus a hopeful resistance in the face of utter destruction from forces outside and in. Opener “Front Towards Enemy” sets the stage and tone for the rest of the record perfectly: “We’re headed for disaster/but I won’t close my eyes until it’s over./So, carry on.”

The themes are especially resonant during the current COVID-19 pandemic. It’s a tough time that most have spent either locked inside while dealing with newfound mental and emotional stress due to the lack of social contact or fighting against age old injustices from outside forces. It’s a struggle for many both inside and out, and even though this record hasn’t been as eerily prophetic or predictive on the specific causes of these stresses as Protomartyr’s recent masterpiece Ultimate Success Today, it embodies the general conflict many of us are going through. The choice to name this record Gold & Grey over Orange fits the contrasts in the album’s lyrics, tones, and the beautiful artwork. There's also a more diverse vocal delivery on this record to match, going from near-whispers to howls and fiery roars that, while not matching the sheer power of the growls on previous output First & Second or the calmer performance of Yellow & Green, avoid overstaying their welcome.

Same goes for the dynamics and flow of the record as a whole: not a minute of Gold & Grey's hour-long runtime is wasted. The album balances its heavy, ***-off barnburners with tense and beautiful quiet pieces. There’s no one half of the record that shines over the other, as the tonal variety and pacing make for a compelling listen whether it be broken up on vinyl into three segments or one continuous listen on other formats. Interludes that initially seem pointless reveal themselves over time to be essential to the album's pacing as breathers from the chaos, and the likes of “Can Oscura” and “Crooked Mile” make for even greater live performances where the band expands on the ideas they lay down on record. It could be argued that the better ones should’ve either been incorporated into the existing main tracks that they crossfade with or should’ve been expanded upon to justify being separate songs, but unlike, say, Tool’s great but flawed Fear Inoculum, none of these moments are unoriginal, lazy, or pointless segments that deserve to be left on the cutting room floor.

Baroness’s Gold & Grey is an artistic achievement that redefines what a good production can contribute to a record, while setting new standards in the band’s songwriting and album structure. It’s not just the band’s best work to date, it’s one of the greatest rock albums of the 2010s.


user ratings (367)
3.4
great
other reviews of this album
MiloRuggles STAFF (4)
The wheels on the bus go......

Odal (4.5)
A highly suspect mix and a few other head-scratching decisions can't stop this from being the best B...



Comments:Add a Comment 
DavidYowi
November 11th 2020


1216 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Honestly if you dig Tame Impala's Lonerism but hate the production of this you're talking out of your ass. They have the exact same production.

zaruyache
November 12th 2020


24310 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0 | Sound Off

i've heard plenty of noisy albums and most don't use loudness war nonsense to achieve said noisiness, so the explanation for the bad production sounds like a lot of wishful thinking.

trickert
November 12th 2020


14 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Probably their best album yet, although Yellow&Green through Purple is certainly a, er, uh, purple patch.

Musefan58867
November 12th 2020


81 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Lonerism sounds great imo, don't think I've ever heard anyone say otherwise.

On the production front, I used to be really anal about the whole loudness war thing, and it definitely can ruin some records, but I think pushing stuff into the red isn't always a bad thing. Iggy's mix for Raw Power is my go-to one, so this might just be on my end, but I honestly only had issues with a select few moments on the record, and over time I grew to enjoy them.

Audio rips of the livestream concert tracks only trump the songs here when it's the interludes being expanded, and I do prefer the sound on the record to how it sounds live.





BTW, first review, so gimme thoughts on how to improve.

DavidYowi
November 12th 2020


1216 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

That’s what I mean. This and Lonerism are going for the exact same sound, with Fridmann working on both records. I think the reason people where put off by the production of this and not Lonerism is because G&G used that style of production in a mostly metal context and not a psychedelic pop context that Tame Impala used it in. You are dead on with the division between critics and regular audiences, I remember one of the reviews for G&G claiming that this was Baroness’ Led Zep IV, and I can honestly see why they would think that. I’m deeply curious where the band will go next.



Also Pale Sun is the best song Baroness has ever done imo

AxeToFall93
November 12th 2020


301 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

The songs are alright (although not touching their golden era up Y&G) but the production is just horrible.

Kompys2000
Contributing Reviewer
November 12th 2020


6224 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

This album is a bit like St. Anger, in that the One Thing Everyone Complains About is definitely a problem that hurts the album a lot, but it would probably still be their weakest album if the One Thing was fixed

Digging: John Donne - A Mutable Feast or: The Ghost of a Flea

Shadowmire
November 12th 2020


6594 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

it's their best

Kompys2000
Contributing Reviewer
November 12th 2020


6224 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

That said, "I'd Do Anything" and "Tourniquet" are both straight-up masterpieces and I won't be hearing a word to the contrary

Shadowmire
November 12th 2020


6594 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

i love 'em and cold-blooded angels is my favorite baroness song. really gets the emotions going.

Pikazilla
November 12th 2020


17627 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Wouldn't call this their best, but it's def better than yellow and green

AxeToFall93
November 12th 2020


301 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Nah, this is by far their weakest record.

Musefan58867
November 12th 2020


81 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

I don't really know which record I think is the weakest, since I need to familiarize myself more with Y&G, Blue, and Red. I really got into them with Purple, and I went back to the first two EPs since I'm big on that heavy sound. Purple and this are my most listened to records of theirs, and the only two I actually own. I'm tempted to either say Blue or Y&G are their weakest, but not by some large margin at all. Y&G is way too long for me to get through in a sitting, and I really only listen to Blue for a few songs rather than the album as a whole. I don't think I have that happening with Purple, G&G, Red, or First & Second.

Musefan58867
November 12th 2020


81 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

On the topic of a favorite track from this record, I'm always switching between Borderlines, Pale Sun, Cold Blooded Angels, and Seasons. Tourniquet is amazing, but I just love Borderlines so damn much. I'd say it or Pale Sun is their best song so far.

Kompys2000
Contributing Reviewer
November 12th 2020


6224 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

Borderlines never sat quite right with me, it's good but also feels like their first song that sounds like Baroness just doing the Baroness 'thing' on autopilot

Kompys2000
Contributing Reviewer
November 12th 2020


6224 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

Also Y&G is a lot less daunting when you approach it as two separate-but-interconnected albums, like I have it 5ed and I still usually only listen to one or the other in one sitting. Green has a few moments that are less than amazing but Yellow is straight-up the best radio rock album since the color and the shape

CugnoBrasso
November 12th 2020


1151 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Come on now, Yellow is amazing, don't force me to leave this site.

Musefan58867
November 12th 2020


81 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Well, if we're looking at it as two separate records, I'd say Yellow is amazing and Green can't keep my attention for long. Almost every single song on that first half is amazing and must-hears of theirs. Only lesser song on that half is Twinkler, and it's still a damn good song of theirs. I can only recall Board Up The House from Green, so that's how memorable I'd say it is.

Senetrix666
November 12th 2020


465 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Blue is objectively not their weakest record. get that take outta here

Musefan58867
November 12th 2020


81 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

I'm not even saying it's bad, Blue is awesome, and A Horse Called Golgotha is what introduced me to Baroness. I just prefer Purple or Red to it, idk. Maybe if I give it some more spins, that'll change, but that's where it stands for now. Like I don't have a single one of these albums sitting under a 4, so they're all really damn good.



You have to be logged in to post a comment. Login | Create a Profile





FAQ // STAFF & CONTRIBUTORS // SITE FORUM // CONTACT US

Bands: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z


Site Copyright 2005-2019 Sputnikmusic.com
All Album Reviews Displayed With Permission of Authors | Terms of Use | Privacy Policy