Originally written by Chris Chellis.
Though Savannah gave birth to this very band four years ago, the Baroness name is still a relatively new one to most, including myself. There’s the First EP, the Second EP and the split with Unpersons, but I can’t imagine too many people predicting the progression this band has made since their first 3-song recording for Hyperrealist in ’04. Now, fittingly, Baroness blesses us, the unsuspecting listeners that we are, with their debut full-length, Red Album, an epic, playful approach to sludgy, atmospheric and exploratory metal.
As hype-driven as many Relapse bands tend to be, this one deserves the credit. This isn’t mere Neurosis or Mastodon worship. This is a dirty rock mess best served with sweet tea under a warm Georgia sun. It sways and dips with with the understanding that the guitar is and always will be the central character to any metal template. There’s a remarkable lack of self-awareness to songs like “Isak” and “Wailing Wintry Wind,” where the band seemingly loses itself in a cloudy haze. These are the things most bands wish they could accomplish some time in their career. Baroness accomplishes this on their debut. Go figure.
As important as the guitars are to the band’s sound, drummer Allen Blickle plays an equally important role in tying Baroness together. While not as technically accomplished or hyperactive as Mastodon’s Brann Dailor, he often seems to guide his band mates in the same way that Dailor does. Certainly, he plays around far less with fills but he does open a few songs with the same sharp sense of rhythm and control. It works to the band’s benefit to let the drums take the lead because guitarists John Baizley and Brian Blickle can jump into the fray seemingly unnoticed, and when those riffs hit (and believe me, they will), they will hit hard. “O’Appalachia” is perhaps the best example, proving that all it takes is a little over 2 minutes to record an outrageously tasty and filling set of riffs.
If there’s any one thing that defines this album it is chemistry. Baroness is a band in the truest sense of the word. As individually talented as Baizley, the Blickles and Summer Welch (bass) are, there isn’t one moment on this album where I am singling any one person out as particularly spectacular, which is a compliment of the highest form in my book. Being able to disguise individual talents through the strength of songwriting is a commendable and deservedly praised skill that most bands do not and will never possess.
While the almost schizophrenic “Cavite” from the band’s split with Unpersons hinted at the band’s progression, they were still very heavily influenced by hardcore and it often felt like the band’s more rock-oriented passages were forced . Not so here. Each individual element is so seamlessly implemented that it’s nearly impossible to distinguish them from one another, giving Red Album a uniquely uniform sound. Whether you’re familiar with prior releases or not, you might as well pretend that this is your first time listening to Baroness because this is an entirely new band as far as I am concerned, and they have undoubtedly developed for the better. If anything, they’ve almost set the bar too high. If the debut is this damn good, how in the hell are they going to top it?