The word ‘mature’ is often a means to describe where an artist finds themselves after many years on the road and in the studio. Perhaps the implication being that early musical efforts were ‘immature’, it just doesn’t seem to fit right as a descriptor sometimes. But for Baroness, having survived multiple lineup changes and a terrifying near-fatal bus accident, it seems appropriate because the Savannah, Georgia-born act has matured into a rock-solid foundation.
Hence the title of their newest release Stone (ending the tradition of color-themed records) on their own label of Abraxan Hymn. The ten-track album also marks the first time the band has operated with the same lineup on a full length, and I’m pleased to say that the results are an impressive display of individual talents to make up the whole.
Baroness admittedly dropped off my radar for a while. 2007’s Red was a favorite of mine, an immaculate pairing of psychedelia, progressive metal and sludgy southern rock. 2009’s Blue was a lively hard rock album with remarkably catchy hooks. But 2012’s ambitious double album of Yellow & Green just didn’t have much to say, and coupled with their choice of production, I lost attention. But such a talented act deserves a revisit and thankfully, the band’s own production is now a huge breath of fresh air.
Opening with the sixty-second acoustic intro Embers, the driving and riveting number Last Word soon follows with the musical clarity the band deserves. It has the bombast and intricacies of frontman John Baizley’s trademark guitar style, but the added touch of guitarist and co-vocalist Gina Gleason has never sounded better. Her harmonized singing and fluid fretwork have really come into their own.
Stone is a remarkable new chapter for the band…
Beneath The Rose showcases drummer Sebastian Thomson’s powerful work behind the kit as Baizley’s ominous spoken word vocals call out ‘I wanna lie to you and tell you this is over’. It’s a really dazzling display of numerous styles of drumming from hardcore to thrash metal. Jazz-informed bassist Nick Jost keeps the low end going at an impeccable pace on the moody Choir. The bass has often felt a bit subdued on previous Baroness albums, so it’s a real treat to hear it loud and proud here.
Shine glows with a blending of melody and chaos that recalls Blue, while Magnolia is a graceful blend of clean passages and sludgy bombast. Though Stone opts for some of the more experimental moves Baroness have recorded, their talent of gentle acoustic reflections like the closer Bloom, and the aforementioned Embers, still feel welcome, offering shelter from the ruckus.
All-in-all, Stone is a remarkable new chapter for the band. The passion and confidence of Baizley and his crew are noticeably evident in this ambitious heavy rock album, and I am very glad to say that the album does not disappoint and hints at an exciting new future.
Scribed by: Rob Walsh