Music Review: Yellow and Green

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Music Review: Yellow and Green

 

Photo courtesy of Amazon.com

    Human beings, with our slight frames and limited intellects, are prone to ascribing agency and intention to the random events in our lives as our way of coping with the unknown. Coincidence and randomness and the transitory nature of our lives don’t always sit well, so we take our emotional refuge whenever we can. Luck is an idea that grows out of this; bad and good luck, as if it inhabits the same elementary planes as oxygen or cosmic radiation, affecting all it touches.


     I’m lucky to have gotten the chance to listen to Baroness’ Yellow and Green, a double-disc embarrassment of riches from the insanely talented Savannah metal outfit, enough so that as I write this and as I listen to it I remember how lucky I am to write for Drawl in the first place.


     Yellow and Green is an expansion of the band’s sludgy, proggy heaviness of their previous two albums, and it’s a juggernaut -- 75 minutes of galumphing riffs, screaming dual-lead guitar solos, sonorous harmonies, and thrilling dynamic shifts that will make you want to upgrade your headphones on further listens. The first disc is frontloaded, kicking the ambient intro’s gate off the hinges with the back-to-back barnburners “Take My Bones Away” and “March To The Sea.” (Note: though the inevitable comparisons to Mastodon are, well, inevitable, Baroness is carved from different, slightly less pummeling stuff. Both bands do realize that nautical grimness is a perfect fit for metal lyrics. See Yellow and Green’s “Sea Lungs” for another excellent example.)

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     Baroness has always excelled at heaviness without over-reliance on brutality; rather, guitarists John Baizley and Pete Adams layer and weave multiple lines over each other, concentrating on tone over punishment. But even when they hew closer to major keys, such as on disc 2’s “Board Up The House,” it’s not long before the band locks into a heavy, throbbing hammer of distortion; even the almost danceable “Little Things,” with its nodding four-on-the-floor propulsion and rubbery bass, manages to go from purgatorial disco to laserlike harmonized solos and galloping riffs. “Cocainium” takes things even further, building a spare choppy beat and mellotron into a crunchy firestorm of distortion.

     The album sags a little on the second disc, with a stretch of tracks that place greater focus on guitar atmospherics than the rhythm section, and on any other album this might be a problem. However, I’ll gladly welcome a breather from the rest of the album’s pyrotechnics, and it’s not long before “Psalms Alive” lets drummer Allen Blickle show off with some flashy fills, followed by the instrumental “Stretchmarker” that concludes with an almost folksy acoustic run. Above all, Yellow and Green carries a sense of the majestic; that nothing need conclude earlier than necessary, no song must stretch deeper and farther than it can, and that beauty and subtlety can stand alongside the sludgy guitar backdrafts and cannonball drums of the heaviest Southern metal. It strengthens my faith that inventive, devoted musicians like these exist and I can carry them in my pocket.

     Unfortunately, Baroness is severely unlucky. A few weeks ago their tour bus plunged 30 feet off a viaduct, the impact fracturing the band members’ vertebrae, an arm, a leg, and severely injuring the other passengers and driver. They’re lucky to be alive. Their US tour dates haven’t been canceled. Yet. So I can’t yet say whether or not my (the concertgoer’s) luck is bad or good. But they’re on the mend, tweeting thumbs-up pictures from the hospital. Bones will knit, casts will get sawed off. And we luckily haven’t heard the last of them, hopefully for years to come.

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