Mastodon are a great band, so when folks started muttering about Baroness in the same context I should have taken notice. Generally I thought “here’s another stoner band with added Mastodon widdly bits” and filed on my stuff-to-listen-to-at-some-point list somewhere in the middle. This is why it has taken me so woefully long to get with the programme. To paraphrase in the vernacular – EPIC FAIL!
Yes, they do sound a bit like Mastodon – a driving flux of complex psychedelic guitar and complex arrangements. The bands also share a doom/prog lineage. But Baroness cast a mood that’s fundamentally different – although comparatively cerebral, Baroness effect a stoner slouch and southern groove which allows them a brightness that is nonexistent in their fellow Georgians’ music, and place them along side popier counterparts Torche.
The Red Album is bookended with 2 atmospheric instrumental sections. The opening ambient chimes of Rays on Pinion slow-builds into a glorious upbeat, up-tempo stomp before morphing into a part stoner, part punk bruiser. The sun sets on The Red Album with Grad, an azure and brooding post-rocker which recalls Earth, were they ever to have acquired delusions of grandeur.
What happens in between is a purposeful melange of vignettes and slabs of fully formed modern metal. Repeating motif’s subtly weave this ragtag mix into a primal tapestry.
The Birthing, with its southern stylings and dramatic midsection, is heavy and complex, while the stately Isak plods its chiming course through the stoner wasteland. The foreboding space rock of Wailing Wintery Wind is fancifully chased up by the storm-in-a-teacup fingerpicked acoustic Cockroach En Fleur – the first of a suite of elaborate but essential instrumental accessories completed by the post-rock doom of Aleph and Teeth of a Cogwheel, which is like a 70’s soundtrack for a movie about cowboys in space.
With Wunderlust, we’re are presented with the most Mastodon like moment, with guitars dual guitars picking through angular open stringed harmonies butted with shouted discordant vocals and a narrative instrumental mid section that Mastodon would surely have been proud of.
Baroness will need to step out from under Mastodon’s shadow to truly become a powerful musical force. It would be a travesty if they are relegated to a footnote in another bands musical history. The Red Album is as good as (and in many cases better than) anything that Mastodon have recorded.Baroness, Doom, Earth, Mastodon, metal, progressive, Progressive Metal