What do you get if you combine the experimental, afraid-of-nothing jammage of Baroness, the stoneristic, metallic stylings of Greenleaf and the, errr, boogie-swinging righteousness of ZZ Top’s ‘Doubleback’?
OK, so if that link is simply too tenuous for you to comprehend then whack the highlighted portions of text above together and you get… Baron Greenback! Geddit? Great!
Named after the famed toad and evil nemesis to the one and only Danger Mouse, these particular Bristol/Midlands-based Barons have been making amp stacks shudder in venues around the UK since as far back as 2009. With a raft of enviable support slots gigging with the likes of EyeHateGod, Karma to Burn, Crowbar and many others now under their belts, they’ve been honing their chops and readying this debut slab of hard-hitting and dynamic sludge in the process. Comprised of six mighty cuts of interesting, meandering prog-doom-metal, Baron Greenback is no ordinary stoner rock throwback record.
Kicking off with the stumpy, chunky grooves of Burden provides a frantic start punctuated by Si Spiers’ frenetic drums attack and Mike Waring’s taut, jagged guitar lines. Max Ward’s vocals sound colossal throughout – like Eddie Vedder belting out an opera from a chest of the size of Orange Goblin’s Ben Ward. There’s a hint of more than the usual day-to-day sludge already starting to creep in as nods to Tool and even Van Halen career through Waring’s non-stop hailstorm of notes.
Three tracks on the record remain standing from the band’s previous three-track demo CD in the form of Vines, Internal Spiral and the powerful crunch of Imploding Sun – a track propelled forward by Chris Rouse’s hulking basslines. As Ward opens his throat to the gods of rock, the quartet settle into a solid chug, followed by a semi-acoustic passage before opening out into a Kylesa-esque solo and a closing rout of purist riffage a la The Sword.
Imploding Sun is a sure-fire highlight of the record, but the Yob-reminiscent Internal Spiral pushes it close with a punked-up intro which breaks out into a sea of whale-sized riffs swaying under waves of Spiers’ battery behind the kit. It has to be said that the overdrive-charged section from 2:30 does step a little on the toes of Mike Scheidt and his Oregon wrecking-crew a little, but such is the rapid succession of ideas and building of intrigue, I doubt you’d really notice or care.
Yet another finger-annihilating solo from Waring flies by as the ‘Back launch into Shoot From The Mouth – another round of Yob-esque pillaging with Ward’s scorched throat floating above the destruction like an eagle soaring above an erupting volcano… a volcano that is, filled with liquid riff lava. The songs on Baron Greenback are all pretty darn long yet they seem to smash by in no time at all as Rouse keeps pace with Waring’s razor-sharp licks and Spiers’ busy, snappy kit work. The overall sound is an interesting blend of age-old Iommian downtuned blues with mid-‘90s monu-metal in the shape of Pearl Jam and early Soundgarden. Grunge-doom anyone? You betcha!
Frying us off with another blistering solo, Vacuum provides an initial relief from the Mastodon-esque grooves that have now become fully fledged and established. Tagging in their prog influences (think Rush jamming some Graveyard covers), Vaccum is the longest cut on this self-titled rock rout and swaggers with the hard rock ambience the band perhaps falls a little short at the helm of the record. With Waring bending his fingers, strings, back and mind all over the shop, Ward once again tops the mix with his authoritative preaching’s and ends up in a spacey Wyndorfian trance by the song’s eventual conclusion.
As Ward urges us to “dissipate into the ether” on closer Vines, Waring is out to get us again with one final blizzard of fretboard insanity that’s so OTT it’s verging on full-on Liquid Tension Experiment insanity. There’s a bitching groove lying under the hood courtesy of Rouse’s beefy bass and Ward’s cave-crawling vocal lines which see us off and away into the night sky backed by a thousand riff-fuelled space rockets.
Don’t underestimate these toads of Doom Hall at any cost. If you like more than a caveman thump and a banshee scream to your sludge rock and don’t mind a few face-aching guitar solos thrown in for good measure, then Baron Greenback could well be your underground find of the year. Groggy prog with plenty of plod? Si, Barone!
Baron Greenback is available to purchase direct from the band from their Facebook page.
Scribed by: Pete Green