Stagnation (noun): 1.) The state or condition of stagnating, or having stopped, as by ceasing to run or flow. 2.) a foulness or staleness, as one emanating from a standing pool of water. 3.) a failure to develop, progress or advance.
See also: The death of any band.
The race against musical stagnation is a Darwinist reality for the modern rock band. Adapt or fade away; keep those lines chugging, that shining star quality, or risk being pushed into obscurity. Science and music parallel in that the evolution of both is a rather unpredictable force. It is as much a guessing game to chart the musical progression of a band as it is to know the future of our planet, and often just as intriguing a game of devil’s advocate. As we have seen earlier this year, sometimes what the audience hypothesizes to be a band’s next evolutionary step is not always the conclusion (Ceremony’s Zoo, for example.) While this can be artistically essential and rewarding to the band itself, the results are uncertain at best. Change can have a very positive, or polarizing, effect on band’s fan base, for they too will either learn to adapt, or die out.
Baroness’ new album, Yellow & Green, while a beautiful composition of musical integrity, innovation, and solid rock & roll, could prove to be an evolutionary challenge for fans of the band’s heavier backlog. At a lengthy 75 minutes, the double album is also a test of the band’s ability to remain captivating in this new territory. While Yellow & Green certainly feels like an appropriate culmination of First, Second, Red, and Blue, the results aren’t quite what was hypothesized. In place of chugging, epic, southern steel music, we now have soaring anthems, shimmering guitar work, and pitch-perfect melodies. It sounds very much like a Baroness record, and yet not very much like one at all. That’s the evolution, and it’s one deserving of adaptation rather than endangerment of abandonment.
Baroness is no stranger to intricate guitar work, and gentler acoustic numbers have been smattered across their previous efforts: “Cockroach En Fleur”, “Bullhead’s Psalm”, and “Ogeechee Hymnal” on Red and Blue respectively foreshadow “Yellow Theme” and ”Green Theme.” These quieter, starker compositions are the backbone of much of Green, and companion tracks like “Twinkler” intertwine with the more raucous numbers on Yellow.
While much calm and reflective composition is offered on the two halves, the alternating presence of classic-rock tinged numbers is strong enough to resonate with fans of Baroness’ heavier offerings. “Take My Bones Away” and “March to the Sea” are both masterful in their riffaging, and offer the gruff vocals that are a signature of John Baizley’s delivery.
“Cocainium” sees Baroness delve wholeheartedly into 70’s psychedelia, bringing in synth and an imagined fog machine, becoming a true testament to their musical capabilities. Rather than creating a rift between the classic Baroness sound (if one can even accurately define those limitations) and this progression, it inspires admiration for having the chops to take the leap.
Yellow & Green proves that Baroness is moving onward, choosing not to stagnate in one genre or lose themselves in what Baroness should sound like. In a world where tomorrow is an uncertainty, this type of unpredictability is not only admirable, but beautiful. It is certainly worth investing 75 minutes to discover on our convoluted path to the future.
Baroness – Yellow tracklist:
- “Yellow Theme”
- “Take My Bones Away”
- “March to the Sea”
- “Little Things”
- “Back Where I Belong”
- “Sea Lungs”
Baroness – Green tracklist:
- “Green Theme”
- “Board Up the House”
- “MTNS. (The Crown & Anchor)
- “Psalms Alive”
- “The Line Between”
- “If I Forget Thee, Lowcountry”