Baroness – Yellow & Green (Relapse Records)

Tuesday, 26th March 2013
Rating: 7/10

Baroness’s farewell to the metal scene is a fitting one, given that it’s their last for Relapse. One has to wonder if the band was afraid of becoming Mastodon Jr., given the preponderance of Mastodon-heavy ideas that permeated both Red Album and Blue Record. They’re gone, out of the picture, later alligator. In its stead is Yellow & Green, a challenging, 75-minute body of work that stretches across two discs that is more 70’s bayou blues than it is swiped monolithic chugs and down-home boogie. In other words: it’s polarizing.

The band was wise to release “Take My Bones Away” as the first single, for it’s easily the best song on the album. Running along the same lines of similar carefree Southern rockers “Jake Head” and “Isak,” “Take My Bones Away” is a crystal-clear indication of what Baroness does best, which is melodic, homespun metal with a sludge twist. Too bad there aren’t more tracks on the album like this, although the follow-up “March to the Sea” tries to keep pace, as dues “Eula.”

The real question marks hover around restrained numbers like “Little Things,” which has a wiggle similar to pre-Disintegration The Cure, and “Cocanium,” which is driven by a thumping bass line. Neither of the two do much…they just come across as harmless excursions to 80’s new wave rather than songs with any sort of value to them. However, Singer/guitarist John Baizley benefits most from the stripped-down approach taken, as heard on “Board Up the House” (love the vocal harmonies) and the snappy “Psalms Alive.” In fact, Baizley has demonstrated the biggest jump between albums, no longer sounding like he’s trying to sing while holding 30 marbles in his mouth.

Even with the album’s more amped-up moments, again, it’s the laid-back, country-porch-a-sitting haze of “Foolsong,” “Collapse,” and “Stretchmarker” that are hard to grapple with. There’s simply too many of these songs, when it should be the other way around – Baroness should be peppering their metal/hard rock jams with these type of songs. It’s the main reason why Blue Record was such a charmer; Yellow & Green…not so much.

It’s quite possible that Blistering could be in the minority with the underwhelming score of 7/10 for Yellow & Green, but there’s a distinct lack of urgency here. Baroness very well could be out of their melodic Southern swamp metal ideas and if so, then that’s fine. They just come across as a bit too self-involved here, that’s all.

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