By Jillian Deiley
Baroness, an American heavy metal band hailing from Savanah, Georgia, released their fourth studio album, “Purple,” on Dec. 15, 2015.
The band, taking a four year hiatus after a serious tour bus accident in Europe in 2012, has returned to the music scene stronger than ever.
The album, contingent on sludge metal, alternative metal and progressive rock varieties, encompass heavy guitar riffs, thrashing drums, steady bass lines and straight-up thrilling vocals, to bring listeners a compact and all around solid package of music.
Original members of the four-piece metal group include John Baizley (rhythm guitar and lead vocals), Peter Adams (lead guitar and vocals), Allen Blickle (drums) and Matt Maggioni (bass guitar).
Blickle and Maggioni, who both suffered serious injuries in the tour bus accident, left the band after their 2011 album, “Yellow and Green.”
They were replaced by debuting members Nick Jost (bass guitar) and Sebastian Thomson (drums and percussion), who was a former member of the mid 90’s “Post rock” band Trans Am.
Their newest album, “Purple,” was recorded during the winter of 2015 at Tarbox Road Studios, in Cassadaga, New York.
Unlike their previous three albums, “Purple” was released independently on the bands own label called Abraxan Hymns.
Instead of working with former producer, John Congleton, they worked with producer, Dave Fridmann who is best known for his work with the spacey and psychedelic band The Flaming Lips.
Similar themes of Fridmans work with The Lips show through on the album but in a metal context.
The ten track suite spans a length of 43 minutes and features two singles, “Chlorine and Wine,” released in August of 2015, and “Shock Me,” released in November of 2015.
The album opens with the track “Morning Star.” The track tantalizes listeners at first with a short melodic guitar riff only to burst open with heavy rhythm guitar and driving percussion.
The song fades into the album single “Shock Me,” which begins with a new age synth metal feel, similar to that of other tracks on the album such as “Chlorine and Wine” and “If I have to Wake Up.”
This emphasis of synth and keyboards solidifies the motif of progressive rock that the album embraces. The lyrics to “Shock Me” symbolize waking up to reality.
Music critic for Pitchfork.com, Brandon Stosuy, stated in his album review “‘Shock Me’[is] an elegant song about being shocked into a new reality, about bad dreams coming true, about going into battle without proper preparation. On one level it feels like a song about the struggle and battle of day-to-day living, but it isn’t sad music: In fact, Baizley sounds thankful for the clearer, sharper vision personal tragedies afforded him.”
Baizley’s vocals fit snuggly into the arrangement and mesh effortlessly together with powerful vocals that aren’t screamed, but are all around passionate to say the least.
The fourth and fifth tracks on the album, “Kerosene” and “Fugue,” present an interesting dynamic.
“Kerosene” alludes to the idea of fire and burning wrapped in a persona of a troubled love.
“Drown my love in kerosene and in the final hour absence told my heart to wander away,” sings Baizley.
The piece is arguably the most forceful and driving on the album due to Adams and Thompson cohesive work on guitar and percussion.
The album takes a stimulating turn with its fifth track “Fugue.”
The piece focuses on melodic synth and guitar which intertwine together so precisely it’s sometimes hard to tell which is which, and both are supported excellently by the percussion and base line as well.
Although it is solely an instrumental piece, the song is incredibly attuned to the emotional theme of survival and return the album evokes, and it captures this better than some of the songs with lyrics.
As of Jan. 9, 2016, “Purple” ranked number one on the Billboard charts for Independent album and ranked number two for Heavy rock albums.
Rolling Stone magazine also ranked the album at number seven for best Heavy Metal albums of 2015 and Rock Sound, a British music magazine, ranked the album number twenty-three on its list of top fifty releases of 2015.
Due to the album’s creative emphasis on sludge metal with a progressive rock spin brought about by the band’s artistic and musical talent in both instrumentation and vocals, I give the album a four out of five stars.
Along with a return from a four year break with two new members and a new producer, the independent album surpassed their previous work in every way. People who like the bands Mastodon or Stone Sour will love Baroness and their album “Purple.”
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