Baroness - Blue Record (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick


Blue Record (2009)


Surely, future generations will speak of Savannah, Ga. in the same breath as Seattle, Wash. or Athens, Ga. Its nascent metal scene has given rise to several bands that transcend scene politics. The biggest so far is probably Mastodon, from nearby Atlanta, who earned hipster approval outside of metal circles. Indeed, Georgia has been turning out metal bands that defy metal expectations at a rapid clip. Take, for example, last year's releases Static Tensions by Kylesa and Blue Record by Baroness.

Both bands deal in sludgy, heavy, awesome tunes. It's certainly technical, but not to the point of exclusion. When Pat Mathis joked to Spin's David Peisner about "...that whole heavy, doomy Southern kind of metal. When you get these old punk guys who listen to the Allman Brothers and start a metal band, that's kind of what you get," he was pretty accurate.

Baroness deals in sludgy riffs, but they're willing to get expansive, often jamming out songs without sacrificing energy. They have a gritty appeal, but they're not afraid to explore guitar solos or the occasional haunting, acoustic part. Blue Record, the followup to 2007's even more awesome Red Album and perhaps a nod to the Beatles' singles collections from the '70s, even takes breaks from rocking to explore feedback and ethereal, Alice in Chains-style melodies. Mastodon gets a lot of credit for being a metal band non-metalheads can appreciate. The same could be said of Baroness.

The band's song lengths aren't distractingly epic -- "Swollen Halo" is the only song to exceed five-and-a-half minutes -- which should appeal to, say, punk fans. Sure, the record is heavy, but it's also easy to follow. After the delayed intro of "Bullhead's Psalm," the record shifts into turbo with "The Sweetest Curse," a track that announces its metal intentions without losing melody or focus. Over crushing riffs, John Dyer Baizley and Pete Adams bark out impressionistic lyrics and generally kick ass. They're a little less technical or hardcore than Mastodon, but these guys deserve to be appointed Next Indie-Approved Metal Band.

That said, Blue Record finds the band occasionally indulging in sounds that some folks might not be able to follow. Call them Metallica moments -- times when the group busts out acoustic interludes and chugging riffage akin to Master of Puppets. This is, of course, balanced out by songs like "O'er Hell and Hide," in which drummer Allen Blickle pounds out a rolling dance beat for most of the song, adding a bit of boogie to all the noodling. Blue Record is very much a crossover album, hinting at the better aspects of metal's roots while incorporating other genres to form something earthier and more fun.

Peisner's article mentions that the scene is starting to splinter as bands move away, but I can't blame them for doing so. Baroness and Kylesa both released stellar albums last year, and had I been on top of my shit, both would have wound up on my best of 2009 coverage. As is, though, I've found a great entry way into a musical scene that I intend to explore further.