Baroness // Yellow & Green
Rating: Yellow – 3.5/5.0 | Green – 2.0/5.0
Label: Relapse Records
Websites: | | [Full Stream]
Release Dates: NA: 07.19.2012 | EU: 2012.07.16

Baroness - Yellow & GreenThere comes a time in most musicians’ lives where they figure out that in order to attain their bid for immortality, they’re gonna need to start writing some actual songs. Pop and country acts are typically aware of this from the start, while most electronic artists never really get the hang of it. Metal bands usually figure out the ‘songs’ thing about 3 or 4 albums into their career, which leads to the small matter of how to make the transitition gracefully without pissing off all your hard-earned fans. Metallica‘s self-titled 1991 album is perhaps the ultimate example; more recently Mastodon and Opeth went through similar growing pains (usually with the band doing the ‘growing,’ and their fans providing the ‘pain’). The latest metal band begging for punishment is Savannah, GA’s Baroness, who have just released a double album, Yellow & Green. 

I’m not intimately familiar with Baroness‘ back catalog, but I am vaguely aware of the controversy surrounding this album: singer/guitarist Jon Baizley has completely abandoned harsh vocals this time around, as well as toning down the band’s more overt ‘metal’ qualities. In a way, I admire the balls it takes to make a double album at this time—not only are they making music that will undoubtedly anger some fans, but they’re giving them a double dose of it [“What, you don’t like it? Here, have some more!” It’s a little like reviewing retro thrash over here. AMG]. But consider yourself warned: this record is about songs, not riffs. It has less to do with “heaviness” (whatever that means), and more to do with textures and hooks. And for the most part, Baroness pulls it off admirably. These are memorable, powerful songs, but pretty damn far from being “commercial”—Baizley’s clean vocals are still pretty ear-unfriendly, and the band’s sound is far too weird to be mistaken for, say, Foo Fighters. If anything, it reminds me slightly of Cave In, another band that traded heaviness for songcraft (and then quickly traded back after their fans crucified them).

Baroness - 2012For whatever reason, most of the heavier, better songs seem to have ended up on the Yellow half. “Take My Bones Away” is a Soundgarden-esque mutant of a song, gigantic and catchy as hell. The pounding “March to the Sea” and the vaguely Fleetwood Mac-sounding “Cocainium” are also standouts (and could there possibly be a better name for a song that sounds like Fleetwood Mac?). Yellow’s final track “Eula” is a slow-building epic, more of a cathartic outpouring than a structured song, and probably the overall highlight of the set.

The Green side is home to some interesting experiments and, unfortunately, a lot of filler. There’s nothing wrong with being adventurous, but Baroness should’ve thought twice before fucking around with wanna-be dub reggae (“Collapse”) or Radiohead-style cut-up drum samples (“Psalms Alive”). Worse yet, a lot of the songs are half-assed and don’t really go anywhere. Green still contains a couple winners, such as the majestic and massive opener “Green Theme,” and the more riff-driven “The Line Between.” But overall, this half goes out with a whimper, not a bang. If the Yellow disc makes a strong case for the band’s evolution, it’s the stuff on Green that proves the naysayers right.

To put it bluntly, Yellow and Green has about a single album’s worth of good songs, and then a bunch of other shit you don’t need. Just like every other double album that’s ever come out. So what? The good songs are really good, and in this age of iTunes playlists, you could easily pick and choose. Or, you could just write the whole thing off as some kind of contrived sellout move. But then you’d be missing out on some really good music, wouldn’t you? [But you would, indeed, be boosting your metal cred, so you know, 6 of one… – AMG]

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  • funeraldoombuggy

    I got this on the day it came out. I’ve listened to it a few times but just can’t get into it. The vocals aren’t that good… they’re ok but no good enough to carry the whole album. Baroness used to write interesting, technical, very thought out songs… now theyre just writing mediocre rock songs. I respect the direction the band wants to take and I wish them luck but Im personally let down.

  • I was expecting some controversy ever since they first hinted at a more mellowed approach, I must say that every example mentioned is dead on, ever since Metallica’s self titled indulgence, it has become exponentially difficult to most metalheads to accept bands “going soft” or “sell out” as the most stringent would put it. That being said, you being unaware of Baroness previous works may have given you a really passionless point of view (I won’t use the “o” word, with most fanbois trowing it around here to justify their disagreement with some reviews) that  makes me like this one over a lot of the other writeups I’ve been reading these days, great job. I don’t presume to know if this is going to be their future, I hope that they did a double album of this stuff to “get it out of their systems” and go back to a more heavy sound, cos I personally like it more, but if they decide to go on this route, I guess I would wish them good luck and decide to spend my hard earned pesos in something else, like any sensible person would do.

    • Fisting_Andrew_Golota

      What’s the “o” word? 

      I don’t know if I’m “passionless” about it, but I tried to judge this album on its own merit. If “Yellow & Green” was the debut record by some band I’d never heard of, I’d think it was good. 

      • “Objective” would be that “o” word. I guess that by passionless I meant that you had a chance to form an opinion about this record detached from any personal feelings and expectations you might have had, have you heard them before.

  • Dude, I can’t say how many times you listened to it before reviewing it, but your review singles out the obvious “hooks” and mirrors how I felt about it after perhaps 3 or 4 listens. Even though it’s a less metal album, they are still a metal band and, as we all know, metal ain’t all about the hooks. I’ve found after a couple more listens that the other stuff is standing on its own and I’m finding the entire thing works nicely as a double album. 

  • Martin L

    “Metal bands usually figure out the ‘songs’ thing about 3 or 4 albums
    into their career, which leads to the small matter of how to make the
    transitition gracefully without pissing off all your hard-earned fans. Metallica‘s self-titled 1991 album is perhaps the ultimate example”

    Um no, not really. What made Metallica a very special, kickass band is that they got the “songs” thing right off the bat.  Kill ‘Em All features songs, even though the band is still very raw. The song crafting is fully realized on Ride the Lightning and Master of Puppets. That’s why those two remain among the best metal opus ever created. The songs on those two albums are wall-to-wall classics.

    In your Black Album example, you are confusing a focus on “song crafting” with a change in “genre and style”.

    • Marcos Solorzano

      No, angry metal guy got it right.  I think you are confused just because  kill ’em all has more song structure than many modern underground metal bands.  If you put that asside, angry metal guy is right when he says the black album focused Metallica’s own thrash metal style into more mainstream song structures. 

  • I like it but indeed you are almost right about the green side