Posts Tagged ‘Metal’

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the rock i dig the most ’09: Baroness

February 18, 2010

There are at least two dozen different moments on Baroness’ Blue Record that  remind me of Queen’s 1985 Flash Gordon soundtrack. I mean this in only the most respectable way. As in, there are guitar lines so striking that they make me want to shout “Hawkmen, Dive!” at the top of my lungs. Good Metal should make you want to do shit like that. Now, Blue Record isn’t full of campy dialogue drops and dated synth, but it sounds majestic like that Flash Gordon record sounded. In fact, the guitar leads on Blue Record’s “The Sweetest Curse” sound like the kind of leads Brian May might have laid down if he had done time in Thin Lizzy. It has that completely over-the-top feeling of that Flash Gordon record. It is heavy and bombastic but has its transitional moments of beautiful, though disconcerting, calm.

Most of all, it actually sounds like a soundtrack. The songs are more like the individual movements that make up a larger piece, flowing into each other flawlessly. Even when you know Blue Record by heart, it’s hard to pick out where one song ends and another begins. Except that the movie for Blue Record only exists in your head. Well, they did make a video, but sadly, if you’ve seen this horrible, horrible video for this great, great song, you have no fucking idea what that movie might be about and likely wouldn’t want to see it. Blue Record’s visuals are probably better served by the stunning cover art created by lead singer/guitarist John D. Baizley.

Adding to the visual confusion presented by the video I linked above are the lyrics. I’ve listened to Blue Record no less than a hundred times and I’ll be damned if I know what these songs are truly about. The lyrics read like scripture and sound like a series of poems barked out by a madman. When the shouting temporarily subsides, the vocals trip into a psychedelic and atmospheric harmony floating over sparse acoustic guitar and piano, as on “Steel That Steeps The Eye.”  Thematically, I’m picking up that God doesn’t like war and that there is something about a horse and some fish, bullhead catfish specifically. Metaphorical, sure; biblically symbolic, maybe; no idea, most definitely, and that’s about as far as I’ve gotten. It’s tough being a fan of what some would call Stoner Metal and not actually getting stoned. Bands like Baroness and Mastodon make me want to own a bong and know a guy.

Of course, though, it’s the music that ultimately matters and when really smart guys get into mastering Metal and marijuana, generally, really great things happen. It happened here and with guttural vocals blasting through the chugging crush of riffs, Baroness delivered a killer Metal record in every respect. Though it’s the layers of guitar work from Baizley and Peter Adams that make Blue Record more than just another killer Metal record. There’s the aforementioned Brian May in Thin Lizzy quality of the leads, the Zeppelin III-era Jimmy Page acoustic flavoring of the minute long interlude, “Blackpowder Orchard,” (which then lays another Brian May Flash Gordon lead over it). Yeah, back to those Flash Gordon comparisons again. The instrumental “Ogeechee Hymnal” straight up sounds like some lost demo track for that record.

What Baroness achieves on Blue Record is grandiose and wild, headbanging and head scratching, gorgeous and severe. Baroness proves that melody doesn’t have to be sacrificed for heaviness and that psychedelic doesn’t have to mean slow and spacey. They fall into none of the trappings of  Metal’s various and never ending subgenres while staying true to the traditions those subgenres define. On only their second full length album Baroness has carved out their own distinct niche.

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