The music of Baroness centers on guitarist/vocalist/songwriter/visual artist John Baizley, who is one of those people who can smile and still radiate heaviness. While the tracks released ahead of the June 14 release of Gold & Grey bear his unmistakable stamp, the band’s current lineup offers power and flexibility not heard even on its high-water mark album, 2012’s Yellow & Green or its acclaimed follow-up, Purple.
A case in point is “Seasons.”
(See below for the band’s official video, a fan-shot live vid, and extra comments.)
Riding on beats by drummer Sebastian Thomson that sound like Keith Moon after binging on a cocktail of progressive electronica and black metal, Baizley and co-guitarist Gina Gleason (making her recording debut with the band) careen among ambient swells of reverb and pitch shifting; dark, wiry picked patterns; gnashing power chording; and twisting, harmonized lines that bring to mind a giant, distorted organ. No part repeats much, and even when the canyon-wide chorus comes around a second time, it is treated so differently by Baizley and Gleason as to have an elevated impact. The abrupt cut-off of the tumbling harmonized-guitar coda is a brave move. Nothing like leaving ‘em wanting more.
“Seasons” is evidence of a band that is wild with possibilities, more than nimble enough to pull off seriously crazy ideas, and so dedicated to the art of rock-band-music that they have left genre classification behind. The tune is heavy, for sure, but it is beholden to no well-worn tropes.
Baroness embarks on an American tour in early June, covering much of the United States, as well as locations in Mexico, Chile, Argentina, and Brazil. The band will be in the greater New York area around the time of the release of Gold & Grey, with an in-store acoustic gig at Rough Trade’s Brooklyn domain on June 14, the day of the new album’s release. They cover Europe thoroughly from September through November.
BARONESS – Seasons [OFFICIAL]
● The skull in the opening frames telegraphs “metal,” but the majority of the video is studio and rehearsal footage that will feed the appetites of pedal fiends.
● Not a humbucker in sight, and no big amps to be found, both of which are unusual for this type of music. Never underestimate the “wrong” gear for the right sound!
● Several commenters on YouTube are not thrilled with the mix. My opinion is that the mix is fine and works well for the music. It is a busy mix, and some of the choices are as unorthodox as the music. There’s not a lot of metal guitar crunch or thick, doomy sludge–which might be what the band’s early sound and Baizley and Gleason’s visual vibe tunes one to expect–even on the power chords and guitar harmony parts. And, there is a lot of ambient guitar that shares some frequencies with the cymbals. But, I hear these choices as integral to the song’s vibe.
BARONESS / SEASONS / TERMINAL 5
● Fan shot video from the April 12, 2019 gig at Terminal 5, New York City. The black-and-white picture quality is good throughout. Although the audio level drops within the first few seconds, the overall quality is good.
● I am completely intrigued by the ambient guitar sound that Gina Gleason uses in the first verse and elsewhere. Most surprising to me is how active her right hand is. How to experiment with this kind of sound? I’m guessing that it starts with pitch shifting, fast modulation, and a big, dense reverb with the dry signal mixed all the way down. I’m also guessing that it is more challenging than it seems to make it sound good.
● John Baizley always has great independence of his guitar playing and his singing.
● Again, small amps and single-coil pickups are not anathema to heavy music, if the guitarists themselves are heavy.
● It’s probably not intentional, but a wag might see the array of small amps in Baroness’s backline as taking the piss out the bands that stand in front of stacks of mostly non-functioning prop 4x12s.