Baroness PurpleAbraxan Hymns
All colors combined.
With half of Baroness‘ lineup having been replaced since their 2012 double-album, “Yellow & Green“, you’d think “Purple” would be about new beginnings. But there’s an extra wrinkle here that some listeners may be unaware of, one that seemingly functioned as the true catalyst of “Purple“: the horrific bus crash back in 2012 that nearly ended their lives & career. The injuries and mental trauma it caused made said influx of new members a necessity, not to mention bringing the group’s momentum at the time to a screeching halt.
When you think about it, it’s almost as if some spiritual power ironically thumbed their nose at the color scheme the band was using to name its albums. Yellow and & green are the colors you’d generally associate with the healing process, while purple represents a fresh bruise. Then again, they say life is what happens when you try to make plans.
As cliché as it may sound, faced with the distinct possibility of never playing again, John Baizley (vocals/guitars) and Pete Adams (guitars/vocals) seemingly found the time to not only reflect on what they’ve done, but wholly appreciate the gift to continue. For “Purple” doesn’t just build off of “Yellow & Green“, but instead their whole career.
2009’s “Blue Record” signaled a sharp turn to melody for the outfit and “Yellow & Green“—while certainly adventurous—continued that path. For better or worse, Baroness seemed headed on a trajectory similar to that of Opeth; the calm and maturity of age replacing the aggression and antagonism of youth. “Purple” is a course correction in a sense, and overall it’s one for the better. It’s refreshing to find a treasure trove of the gnarled, knuckly riffs that preceded those works present here.
This opus freely encompasses more facets of the band’s past output, with tracks like “Kerosene” and opener “Morningstar” both showcasing the gnawing riffage they and fellow Georgians Mastodon helped to popularize. “Kerosene” in particular even starts off like a bizarre reflection of Mastodon‘s “Siberian Divide“.
The stunning return of brawn gives Baroness a lot more tools to work with and makes this album their most well-rounded venture yet. But “Purple” doesn’t focus solely on one section of the band’s past, nor one emotion. “Try To Disappear” features strident, direct drumming, recalling their “Yellow & Green” works. No surprise then that it’s also bolstered by swirling ambiance and a brooding soundscape of textural bliss.
“Shock Me” has an almost choral feel and continues the band’s orbital adventures with spacey effects and an alarmingly matter of fact chorus. Then there’s the Queen-like pomp of “Chlorine And Wine” that pens another chapter altogether.
Through it all “Purple” proudly showcases its warts and all nature in both musicianship and production. It’s dense and vulnerable, yet strong and determined. You’ll hear calloused fingertips sliding across strings. The grit and distortion of spindly bass lines and sinewy licks are damn near fungal compared to the sterility of some of their peers. The overdriven tones and odd imperfection only add to the bombast of the whole package.
Not only have this outfit found a way to truly document who they are entirely, they’ve also managed to do it with heartfelt appreciation, rather than a nostalgic gambit. It’s a stunning transformation and a sonic destination even they themselves likely couldn’t have surmised while laid up in the hospital. With “Purple” Baroness haven’t just been renovated, they’ve been reborn.