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Yellow & Green

Relapse (2012)
Rating: 8/10

There are some critics hailing Yellow & Green, the third full-length from Baroness, as the “album of the year”. It’s not – but it certainly stands out as amongst the best releases of 2012 so far.

Suppressing the Mastodon comparisons, what the Savannah, Georgia-based quartet have crafted on this double-album effort will not only appeal to your thinking metalhead, as on ‘March To The Sea’, but also open up a potential new audience from across the whole musical spectrum, with something to satisfy everybody from classic and alternative rock fans all the way to your casual Kings Of Leon fan.

Dividing your new release into two albums in the age of downloads is certainly a brave thing to do, but ideally the whole thing has to be listened to in its entirety. The “Yellow” side contains the two most commercial tracks, ‘Take My Bones Away’ and the aforementioned ‘March To The Sea’, which are also two of the most rocking tracks on the album, with John Baizley’s melodic vocals shining through lush choruses playing against winding guitar riffs and tribal drum patterns. Just these two songs alone are worthy of the acclaim that Baroness are now garnering from fans, press and their peers alike. This is thoughtful, well-crafted rock that although is firmly rooted in the present, emanates the same kind of mood the classic rock bands of the 70s and 80s wallowed in, partly due to the warm analogue-sounding production.

However, the biggest talking point of this project is the band’s lighter moments, of which there are plenty. ‘Cocainium’ starts off like a Pink Floyd trip, a reference that crops up throughout the 74-minute duration of the album(s).

In fact, the main drawback of the album is the subtler tones used throughout. Although generally well-thought out and executed, the ratio of shoe-gazing against foot-stompers is maybe a tad too high. One gets the impression that playing songs like ‘Back Where I Belong’, ‘Eula’ and ‘Foolsong’ is cathartic for the band somehow, and that the lighter shades are necessary to avoid rock burn-out and certainly a departure from the sound they displayed on their previous albums, Red (2007) and Blue (2009). ‘Stretchmarker’ even echoes Extreme’s ghastly ‘More Than Words’!

Of the two halves, “Yellow” succeeds more maybe due to the fact it contains the more instant tracks, whereas the “Green” half meanders a bit in places. But the whole affair does reward repeated listens, allowing the softer interludes to make more sense in the grand scheme of things.

This could well be the platform that sees Baroness achieve greater things – time will tell. But hopefully the follow-up will see them bring a little bit of heaviness back to their sound, although we may have to wait for the “Turquoise Record” for that.

Neil Not

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