Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Baroness - Yellow & Green LP (relapse)

Yellow & Green has taken the form of a coming-out party for the band’s departure from “heavy,” and is sure to become part of a larger conversation regarding how American metal bands are evolving. The motives for such evolution are admirable: everyone in the old guard wants to save rock from obscurity as well as sustain metal’s legacy of consistent evolution. More and more cues have been taken from previously isolated metal landscapes, as evident by the recent sundering of Black Metal (Liturgy, etc). In the other direction, where we find Baroness, bands like Mastodon, Kylesa and Torche are spiraling out from the confines of any sub-genre to produce simply good guitar-based music.
Baroness’ previous albums, Red and Blue, found them suited for the job of saviors with astute skill and attention to detail (traits which have largely dropped out of whatever has become of rock & roll). But skill and hard work will only take you so far—look at Mr. Bungle. And because so many participants in the metal conversation have been charmed by Baroness’ gall to—I’ll say it—go soft in the company of an underground culture noted for extremity, there have been few (if any) accurate evaluations of their work as a result.

 starts where Metallica left off in 1996, when they abandoned thrash for tones too subdued for the old guard, but not for exorbitant album sales. Write “Yellow Theme” off as an intro (and not the foreshadowing to more cringe-inducing moments that it is), and the two songs that follow provide hope for the album. The anthemic “Take My Bones Away” and “March to the Sea” prove to be Baroness’ strongest showings in terms of any breach from hardened metal institutions. But they’re low-impact, marginal and not what the fuss is about.

Instrumentally, Yellow & Green does cater to a rich span of genres, largely prog rock and psychedelic folk. But even post-punk and post-rock can be found in “Little Things” and “Psalms Alive,” the latter being the most challenging song on the album. “Board Up the House” must be what is getting the indie rock references, but a more apt comparison can be made to the adult-contemporary of Flaming Lips and Radiohead. All of this impresses by exhibiting stunning moments of pastiche, so convincing, in fact, that you can imagine almost any vocal style servicing it well—all but what actually kicks in. While the desire to trade bellowing for a more traditional way of singing is reasonable, what is more humiliating than phoning in expired metal angst is lyrically reciting equally sophomoric tour diaries. It’s self-indulgent bro-therapy that condenses into a thick cloud which subsequently rains all over the party.
Elizabeth Murphy
-from Agit Reader