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by Chuck Eddy

August 7, 2012

Rhapsody Radar 2012: #22 Baroness

by Chuck Eddy  |  August 7, 2012

Tasteful, mature, and simultaneously exploratory and accessible, Yellow & Green is the longest, most ambitious and least heavy album from the Lexington, Virginia-rooted; Savannah, Georgia-identified; and reportedly more and more Philadelphia-connected foursome Baroness. It entered Billboard's album chart at No. 30 in July, by far the band's best showing yet; 2009's Blue Record had peaked at No. 117, and 2007's debut Red Album (notice a thread?) didn't chart at all.

Yellow & Green -- 18 songs, spread over two sprawling discs, so feel free to call it the band's very own Use Your Illusion if you're so inclined -- is also almost certainly the most critically acclaimed metal album of 2012, destined to pull in fans from several directions outside the genre's usual sphere. And it's quite the Rorschach test: Whether you mainly hear classic rock, rural prog, indie folk, Southern hippie jam, alt/grunge, psych or emo in its cascading wide-screen structures and unabashed growl-free harmonies just might say more about you personally than about the band. Some people even claim to hear disco -- presumably in the burbling pulse of "Collapse," on disc two. I detect at least intermittent traces of Moody Blues, Moby Grape, Meat Puppets, Neurosis, Simon & Garfunkel and Staind myself; others have mentioned early Genesis, Alice in Chains, The Decemberists, Toto and Nickelback. So be forewarned -- but don't be too forewarned.

John Baizley's defiantly unhistrionic emotion isn't immune to whine (check "Little Things") or gut-bust (check "The Line Between"), and this album definitely demonstrates how sometimes there's a fine line between beautiful and boring. The music is as expansive as Baizley's cover art, which just gets more gorgeous with every album: Yellow & Green is cloaked in gracefully naked ladies with crowns of candles and nails and sea creatures, battling giant prawns and black swans. Clearly he's got the sea on his mind: Lots of the lyrics seem to concern large bodies of water. So parts of the album are just ambient, oceanic soundtrack music, the kind of stuff some egghead decided to call "post-rock" a few years back. But sublime wistfulness and heavy sections sprout naturally, "Cocainium" grabs hold right away while Baizley sits "waiting for the spring to come around," and the rest might keep unfolding for years -- or at least one good round trip of seasons.

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