The esoteric way emotions are tied to colors doesn't seem lost on Baroness. Their last outing the "Red Album" was generally regarded as a beefy slab of aggressive southern infused Neurosis meets Mastodon styled prog metal. The "Blue Record" on the other hand is a far more conceptual and wispy listen, one that sees the band eagerly shed their thicker outer skin to reveal intimacy and vulnerability.
From the interlocking intro and outro, everything seems tied together as Baroness take their shot at the kind of conceptual psych expansiveness that ruled the late 60's and early 70's. The sludgy coarse edges and violent impacts that the group previously clung to are dulled down to a blunted edge and are swung with a softer force behind them; while more emphasis is put on ascendant top-heavy song structures and a wealth of throaty melodising.
True some of this momentum shift could be attributed to the addition of guitarist Peter Adams to the fold (he replaces Brian Blickle.) But realistically, the overall change in course feels far too cohesive to pin it on anything but a new collective vision from the entire band. That said, yes the increased usage of clean vocals, acoustic guitars, lingering build-ups and spiraling bridges make for some challenging atmospherics and at times, breathtaking moments of instrumental artistry. But clearly, Baroness have moved past their primal beginnings and now prefer to flex their brains more than their brawn.
This enhanced sensitivity leads them to numerous towering melodies and complex moments of psychedelic bliss that would likely make King Crimson blush. Unfortunately though, it can also make for mixed results like "O'er Hell And Hide", a seemingly out of place dialogue-laden track that sounds as though it was lifted directly from a Muse record. It is these excessive flirts with the softer world of indie and alternative rock that will clearly make or break this album for many.
Still, one thing that hasn't changed with "Blue Record" is the bands epic scope and compulsion to expand their abilities. The lumbering aggression that defined them early on is still present in most cases, but it's hard to deny that a more subdued and less fierce attitude is taking hold. While this may open the band up to wider audiences for the moment, it will also likely make for a difficult balancing act in the long run. If anything, "Blue Record" feels like a tipping point where the band are relieving themselves of the weight of their roots and moving forward at a faster and more streamlined pace.
(4 / 5)