A fine debut album that ebbs, flows and punches
With three E.P.s under their belt since forming in 2003 (First, Second and a split with Unpersons), Savannah Georgia (U.S.A.) quartet Baroness have worked hard, playing nearly 250 shows a year, to finally arrive at their much hailed Relapse Records debut, Red Album. Recorded mostly live according to guitarist/vocalist John Baizley, Baroness (also drummer Allen Blickle, Summer Welch on bass and Brian Blickle on guitar) have created somewhat of a journey of lush volume swells, heavy sludge rock and atmospheric meanderings.
Baroness effectively manipulate the light and shade formula with jam-like moments interspersed throughout, but often surprise the listener with well crafted experimental moods that take merely a beat change or hat count to become something else entirely. While keeping the listener interested in this style is not an easy task (some similar bands tend to drag things into monotonous territory) they have kept things relatively short and simple yet are unafraid to throw in consecutive instrumentals in the Mastodon flavoured Aleph and the percussive/space rocking Teeth Of A Cogwheel.
There are moments reminiscent of the lighter side of Neurosis, Mastodon, Isis, even Kyuss/Queens Of The Stone Age and Clutch but to their credit (and to the benefit of the music) they employ the creed of 'a man and his instrument', giving each track a 'live', flowing feel. The production has a clear and organic sound, particularly on the natural drum mix and mellower intro moments, with no better example than the southern flavoured acoustic track Cockroach En Fleur where you can hear the guitarists' seat creak at the end. The overall mix is complimentary to the music and although it doesn't crush like the heaviest onslaughts of a Neurosis recording, you just know that in a live situation these tracks would kick you in the guts when the heavy riffs drop.
Multi-talented John Baizley's cover artwork is brilliant and his keenly sought after work seems to adorn CD covers and merchandise everywhere you look these days from rock to thrash and grindcore bands. With talents like these and a live show work ethic that would burn out a lesser band we are sure to see and hear more from Baroness who are currently riding high on a wave of well deserved praise. If you crave sludgy heavy rock with lots of twists and turns then take the journey.
(Relapse Records/Riot! Entertainment)