Baroness‘s Gold & Grey, released in 2019, was one of that year’s greatest LPs without any doubt. The first record to feature Gina Gleason on both guitar and backing vocals, it actually marked the end of the band’s chromatically-themed records. I listened to that record countless times, so I was more than excited to get the band’s newest endeavor in my hands.
“Last Word,” the first single, takes your breath away. The shared, harmonious vocals between John Baizley and Gina Gleason work so well here just like they did in Gold & Grey‘s “Tourniquet.” It also appears that Gleason‘s vocals are turned up just a bit more in the mix this time around, which is great. After her vocal work on Gold & Grey I absolutely wanted to hear more of her voice. But in general, “Last Word” generally follows the standard Baroness formula, which is not a bad thing at all. The guitar solo is absolutely banging and right up front in the mix. You can’t miss it.
The following song on the record, however, “Beneath the Rose,” takes a very different approach to vocals. While there is definitely some of the traditional style singing from Baizley, the verses, for the most part, are delivered more like a spoken word performance. Think Henry Rollins without all the muscles and a bit less adrenaline. Though Gina Gleason does give a pretty solid screaming performance on her own in tandem with Baizley roughly four minutes into the track. Songs like “Beneath the Rose” show a very different side of the band, one that has not really been revealed before. Baroness tells us that this was deliberate, and while I will admit, songs like this one took me a few listens to appreciate, I’d say the band can show us just how much they have in the tank when it comes to new sonics and song structures.
Along the lines of new song structures, tracks like the brooding and sludgy “Under the Wheel” are still going to sound familiar but with some clear novelty. Same is true with “Magnolia,” which is a seven plus minute emotional journey that Baroness is so good at taking their listeners through.
The crunchy “Anodyne” is a song that did grab me right away. This one is a bit more reticent of some of the band’s earlier work but still sounds completely original. Another track with Gleason on the backing vocals (again, with beautiful harmonizing here), she also shines on the guitar providing some lovely lead work in tandem with Baizley. It’s not super heavy or fast, but it’s carefully crafted and moving. This is similar to the cut, “Shine,” that immediately follows, albeit with some more spoken word style vocals contained within.
As much as I loved their prior record I will have to admit that one thing that really bugged me about Gold & Grey was the mix and the overall production itself. Stone, thankfully is mixed differently (by Joe Barresi) and the record, overall, comes with much crisper and clearer production in all aspects. Nick Jost‘s bass sounds amazing as do Sebastian Thomson‘s drums and their combined prowess really shines through on songs like “Magnolia” where both have a lot of space to impress.
All in all, this is very different Baroness record. It’s not really what I expected even though I knew the band was clear about their new direction. However, after a number of listens I’ve grown to really love it. This is different iteration of Baroness that has a bit more edge and experimentation. Do I love it as much as some of the band’s classic records? Not quite. I mean, those chromatic records are all pretty damn good. However, the end result though is that the new record still works, and frankly, works wonderfully well.