Source Material: Baroness, Yellow & Green
When the Georgia-via-Virginia art-metal band Baroness' tour bus plummeted 30 feet off a viaduct in southwest England on August 15, injuring three of four members and other passengers to the point that hospitalization was required, their third and current album, Yellow & Green, had not even been out a month. It had entered Billboard's chart at No. 30 upon its release July 17 -- way higher than either of the band's two previous color-coded albums. It was also already shaping up to be the most critically acclaimed metal album of 2012: SPIN scored it 9 out of 10, Pitchfork opted for an 8.5. As I write, Metacritic has tallied 26 critics' reviews (23 positive, three mixed), averaging 82 out of 100.
(The one negative user review, from somebody known as WeenTheClutch who bought the double-vinyl gatefold version, calls it a "boring mediocre record from a great band," loaded down with filler and "Nickelback-influenced **** rock," ultimately constituting "the greatest rock 'n' roll swindle in quite some time." But that's clearly not the majority opinion.)
What happens now -- whether the album reaches the mainstream audience it seems to aim for -- remains to be seen. As of late August, Yellow & Green was no longer in the Billboard 200, though the song "Take My Bones Away" was very slowly climbing the airplay-determined Active Rock chart -- up to No. 36 from 38 a week before, and 40 a week before that. According to the band's recent Facebook updates, guitarist Pete Adams (who was treated and released the first day), vocalist/guitarist/album-art-designer John Baizley (who broke his left arm and leg), and drummer Allen Blickle and bassist Matt Magionni (both of whom fractured vertebrae) are no longer in the hospital. But "all remaining 2012 tour dates are canceled," which undoubtedly throws a major monkey wrench into their promo efforts. Regardless, it remains a pretty interesting record, and it will probably show up on more critics' Top 10 lists than any other metal release this year. To reiterate and condense some things I wrote on a different post here last month (because it's not like my opinion has changed, and otherwise I'd just shuffle words into a different order anyway): "Tasteful, mature, simultaneously exploratory and accessible, Yellow & Green is the longest, most ambitious, and least heavy album Baroness have made. At 18 songs, spread over two sprawling discs, 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. 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."
All of which is to say: There's a lot going on here. From whom Baroness learned their musical ideas is anybody's guess, but that puzzle is half the fun. Below are 15 albums -- maybe half "metal"-identified, half not -- that at least sound like they might've contributed to the Yellow & Green thought process. Your list might be different -- in his August Rock Roundup, Rhapsody's own Justin Farrar mentioned Led Zep, The Doors, The Misfits and Bad Religion, none of whom I hear at all! And most likely even Baroness have never heard at least a couple of my picks; if so, perhaps they can check them out during their recuperation. Which, fortunately, seems to be going quite smoothly.