What Baroness have done here is to attempt, and successfully execute, something that heretofore had only been attempted by Mastodon on their last couple records. Make an insanely heavy record that packs hooks – whether catchy riffs, vocal melodies, or leads – into every conceivable minute of the album, without sacrificing anything, most especially continuity or atmosphere. It is, undoubtedly, one hell of an undertaking, and most groups are not even capable of trying. Many that might be do not try for fear of failure. It’s a lot easier to just pump out disgusting riffs if that’s what you do well. Baroness has had that down pat from their first EP. But they began combining that unique riff juggernaut with prog rock, southern rock and true pop sensibilities on Red Album, and have damn near perfected the formula they started to delve into there. Blue Record is the sound of a band firing on all cylinders, on every track.
Now what Baroness do is entirely different from what their hard rock brethren in Torche and Queens of the Stone Age (generally) do. While the latter are making groovy, heavy ass pop songs, Baroness are taking heavy metal song formulas and injecting them with so much pop flavor and so many memorable, hummable hooks that it seems at any moment they might burst. But they don’t. They never meander aimlessly. The songs are taught, sometimes perhaps even too concise and direct. That’s how you make six minute tracks seem to fly by in two.
Sure, Baroness have a bit of work to do in the vocal department, if only because they are seemingly demanding the maximum of themselves from a songwriting perspective in every other arena. The instrumention is beyond disgusting, but I think Baroness – scary as this is – can improve. Perhaps the third full length record will see vocals that reach into classic rock territory a la Mastodon’s Crack the Skye (whether Mastodon can replicate those vox live being an entirely different discussion). And if Baroness can do that (which is to say pull off truly epic, soaring melodic vocals) well, there might be no better band on this earth. Because they’ve got just about everything else I personally look for in a band. Amazing, unique riffs that sound familiar but yet not quite like anything else I’ve ever heard – a bizarre blend of Melvins weirdness, southern rock tones and grooves, and math rock complexity. MEGA hooks – lead vocals, choruses, guitar solos, chord progressions and riffs I just can’t get out of my head. Massive heaviness, galloping drums, fiery twin lead guitar work – a band comfortable channeling Iron Maiden, Mountain and the Melvins in the same song. A sense of scope, drama and timing that would make Explosions in the Sky and Pelican proud. Spectacular artwork from guitarist/singer John Dyer Baizley. Blue Record is the total package. This kind of band and this kind of record don’t come around the block that often. Enjoy.