During the tail end of 2015, there was a serious lack of good new music. No major releases were interesting at the time, as there was some generic boring rap, some terrible screaming metal garbage, and some British indie/folk 21 year old kid telling people his life story. Pass. Then, this album emerged from out of the fog. In fairness, this album’s release was long awaited and expected, and that it was likely the last big release of 2015. What better way to end a year’s series of reviews than with an album like this, called Purple, by the art-metal band Baroness. Like the #3 best album of 2015 by the surprise band Earthside, this band released a whole slew of tracks off the album. In fact, the whole thing is out there, and I’ll do my best to pump them out track by track throughout the album in order. Let’s start with the beginning, shall we? This is Morningstar, what a fitting opener that really gets the blood flowing, your head bouncing, and your foot tapping.
This track is Morningstar, which introduces the listener to what they’re going to be in store from this album, gets things started with a catchy hook and an energy that stays fairly constant until the end.
This next track track, Shock Me, is the official single the band released for this album last month. It’s very radio friendly and I hope they get the exposure they deserve with it. Since this review was first written, the band released an official music video for the track, to everyone’s surprise.
This band, as I mentioned a moment ago, was fairly quiet since 2012. They toured intermittently in 2013 with other bands until they decided to take the headliner role for the next year or so. They were quiet for good reason, though, because the band almost died not long after the release of the terrific Yellow and Green back in 2012. They were involved in a huge bus accident in England where the bus went off the road in terrible conditions and fell something like 30 feet off of a ledge. The band broke various bones and some vertebrae (which is terrible for a drummer) and the band had to heal up and regroup for quite some time. It was such a devastating accident that the drummer and bassist left the band, as they both fractured several vertebrae and were understandably traumatized from this whole situation. I don’t blame them and I hope they have recovered back to full health, but Baroness needed to continue in their absence.
Reeling, Baroness picked up a new drummer and bassist and decided to keep on rolling. The frontman of the band, John Dyer Baizley, didn’t want his vision to go to waste as he still had more work to do. As the lead singer and rhythm guitarist (notice those harmonizing guitars, especially in Chlorine & Wine?), Baizley is also the artist of the band. He went to art school for some time and then decided to leave and go make art of his own, and he certainly has. On the top of this review is the album cover, which he painted, as well as the other album artwork for all of their previous albums. Every Baroness album, as a note, is named after a color. I expect Orange to come out in a few years, since we already have Red, Blue, Yellow & Green, and Purple. No word on if they’ll release a Black album or a White album, but those albums are dangerous territories to cross into because Metallica has claim to Black and obviously The Beatles lord over White. I won’t get into a discussion about what colors are and aren’t, no thank you, but I do hope that Baroness is around long enough that they have to start getting weird with album color titles like Chartreuse and Aquamarine.
It’s tough to accurately describe Baroness as a metal band, because they are so much more. They’re psychedelic first, and have a lot of prog and some STP-esque alt-rock of the 90s in them too. They even put a bit of twangy folk in the track Fugue, because they’re artists first and musicians second. I admire that about the band more than anything – this band is interested in producing art and making music for the sake of art, and not solely for commercial purposes. They may very well be an indie metal band too, but who likes labels anyways?
This next track is Chlorine & Wine, which was the first track they released to hype up this album back in August. It whipped fans into a frenzy because the band had been relatively and understandably quiet for a few years as mentioned above. It was very exciting to hear from them again after what happened, and it was a shot in the arm that the fans needed to get hyped for another Baroness album. We knew that the band was recording again after the incident, but didn’t have much information – until this dropped, and boy was it exciting.
Purple, in many ways, is a combination of their previous albums Red and Blue. There’s no way that was an accident. The psychedelic nature of their early work combines with some of the heaviness, and it’s strange because for an album this heavy, it doesn’t feel it. When you listen to their big wrap-up track, If I Have to Wake Up (Would You Stop the Rain), it doesn’t sound metally at all. It’s vast and open, but I wouldn’t call it crunchy or heavy at all. For a band that lost two major members recently, they haven’t lost any steam whatsoever. Their new drummer, Sebastian Thomson, picked up right where Allen Blickle left off, and may have added a little flourish to the percussion section. Things are very smooth in this album, and it’s clear that they’re having fun while recording together. I’m glad a band with several new members is able to have this kind of chemistry already, and I wonder what a live show of theirs would be like. They’re on solid US tour right now, so if you get a chance, you should definitely catch them if you enjoyed the music distributed throughout this review.
This album is polished and isn’t as gritty and raw as their first few albums, and that may be owed to the production of this album being handled by the band and its own record label, Abraxan Hymns. I’ll also note in passing that Dave Fridmann produced this album, who some of you would know as the producer on bands like The Flaming Lips, MGMT, OK Go and Tame Impala. Clearly, Baroness wanted Fridmann to be involved on this album because of his interest in artistic and unusual music, which in itself is a strange combination of words.
I am so happy to end the year of reviews with this album, because it’s always good to go out on a high note. I’ve looked around and there are not many significant releases for the remainder of the year. Instead of finding the best of the worst, I’ll transition to a different kind of list, which some of you readers are more familiar with – the Best Albums of 2015 list! You knew it was coming. Before I get too far, I want to throw a rating at Baroness’s Purple, because it’s good to have that kind of closure. This album was a powerhouse, heavy in all the right places and yet catchy and fun enough to loosen up and give the listener a chance to breathe. I loved this album. I give it 14.5 out of 15 RUs, with the only ding being that it’s a remarkably quick (but brilliant) 43 minutes of music. We may have been a bit spoiled after Yellow and Green, which ran for just under 80 minutes, and while this album is fantastic, it feels so short.
It’s only fitting to end this review as well as this album with a track like Crossroads of Infinity. It’s just 15 or so seconds long, and you can make of it however you will. Strange, sure. Does it make sense? Does it have to? I like it just the way it is.
Thanks for sticking through till the end. If you enjoyed this review, there are plenty more of them on this page, and you can follow me on this wordpress or on the official Audio Orbital facebook page! There’s only one album left on this best of 2015 list, and it was a doozey. If you have any comments or feedback, feel free to post them. If you want to talk about the picks so far, have at it. Let’s talk.