By Kevin Stewart-Panko
Really, the only disappointing thing about Baroness’ second album is that considering the wealth of artistic talent this sorta-Savannah, GA band has fronting it – that would be guitarist/vocalist John Dyer Baizley, if your head has been under a particularly large conglomerate stone the past four or five years – it would’ve been nice to see some outlandishly unique or extensive packaging involving pop-up CD booklets and/or ornately adorned, geometrically challenging fold-outs all exploiting Baizley’s style to the highest letter of the law. I guess we’ll have to settle for another emotionally and symbolically dense piece, like that which graces the cover of this record and the music therein.
Wait! Did that seem somewhat dismissive? “Settle?” I totally didn’t mean that because, dudes and dudettes, Blue Record is a forward-thinking pastiche of all points of sludge/stoner/doom light as informed by a bunch of toothless, Smokey Mountain ban-jer pickers, the Thin Lizzy fanclub, the Melvins irreverence, Converge’s 21st Century output and Queen’s penchant for mini rock operas. There’s a definitive flow combining the anthemic raging-down-the-river rock of “Jake Leg” and “A Horse Called Golgotha” in the form of connective tissue interludes like “Blackpowder Orchard” and “Ogeechee Hymnal.” Then, there are the sublimely silky transitions and references existing between the vocally-driven acoustic “Steel That Sleeps the Eye” and dirty, yet sculpted, punk of “Swollen and Halo.” When everything is combined, Blue Record feels like an album, not just a collection to unrelated riffs crammed into a collection of unrelated songs. You hear bands talk about the former all the time, though few actually are able to pull it off and Blue Record is one of the best examples of this since, well, their previous recording, Red Album. You get the sense there’s a story being told within its electronically coded plastic, regardless of how cryptic the lyrics are. And no matter how difficult it is to penetrate the inherent themes – even the long instrumental passages in “O’er Hell and Hide,” “The Gnashing” and “War, Wisdom and Rhyme” seem to tell some part of a story – there’s still something to contemplate or headbang to if you’re sick of trying to get the neurons to fire.
I’m telling ya, the pre-orders should have come packaged with a pair of denim overalls, a whittlin’ stick, a rocking chair and a decent sized porch.