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Baroness - Blue Record CD (album) cover




Experimental/Post Metal

3.50 | 81 ratings

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Eclectic / Prog Metal / Heavy Prog Team
4 stars Baroness' 2nd full length studio album, "The Blue Album" was released in October 2009. The album was produced by John Congleton, who produced albums for "Black Mountain" and "Explosions in the Sky". Baroness also got a lot of exposure following the release of this album opening for "Mastodon", "Metallica", and "Isis" among others. Their debut album, "The Red Album" was a great Progressive Metal album which proved the band had the talent and the innovation to be considered one of the best upcoming Progressive Metal bands, and this album ended up being called the 20th Greatest Metal Album in History by L.A. Weekly. It is also their first album to feature Pete Adams on guitar, who replaced Brian Bickle.

Since I really love the "Red Album", I had a lot of hope for this album when it came out. They had set a really high bar with that album, and I hoped that this one would be able to at least meet that bar. I was not disappointed, at least not this time, though I was when they released their next album "The Yellow and Green Album". But I'm getting ahead of myself here. Let's look at the Blue Album.

This album starts out with an introductory track called "Bullhead's Psalm". It features a quick dual guitar instrumental with no percussion that segues into the 2nd track, "The Sweetest Curse". This one starts immediately with the full band and a much heavier sound. John Baizley soon starts his melodic growl vocals and everything begins with a bang after the introduction. Once again, as in the previous album, we get that excellent dual guitar work with strong progressive riffs and a heavy dual guitar solo. It quiets down to a dual acoustic finish close to the end.

"Jake Leg" continues with this style, with a more rapid fire drumming pattern and killer stop/start introduction. John's vocals are a bit cleaner on this one, but the song's power is just as strong on this one. The track is even more progressive than the last one, with some tricky rhythms and a mostly non-traditional song structure with just a bit of a mid-east influence. It ends with a heavy dual guitar solo.

"Steel That Sleeps the Eye" uses a quiet acoustic backdrop with some wind effects and vocal harmonies that are very reminiscent of "Alice in Chains" on some of their softer songs. The reverb effect on the vocals adds a great atmosphere. Percussion finally kicks into a slow pounding rhythm as it builds to lead into the next track.

"Swollen and Halo" is the longest song on here at over 6 minutes. It starts out at a mid tempo rhythm and a nice guitar hook, but soon increases in tempo to a more driving and heavy rhythm and more vocals. The dual guitar power of this band leads to some very strong and heavy guitar, yet it stays quite melodic even in its heaviness. There is a sudden shift in the middle of the long instrumental break to a new hook and cool warbling guitar effect. The ever changing tempo and meters makes this track fly by and you wish it could just keep going.

"Ogeechee Hymnal" is an instrumental that starts off a bit laid back, but a slow heavy rhythm prompts louder guitars, but it suddenly goes to a more atmospheric and psychedelic sound with sustained guitar chords and effects after losing the percussion, and giving it an electric guitar hymn style.

Crazy riffs and effects are squeezed out of the guitars to open the heavy and fast paced "A Horse Called Golgotha". Mixed solo and harmonized vocals come in at 1:15, and the pace feels frantic and fast. Soon the dual guitar sound creates an amazing instrumental section and increases the intensity before vocals come in again. Then there is this amazing guitar sound that will make your ears perk right up. At 4 minutes, percussion drops off as guitars echo around each other and then suddenly blast off again and then go into a rapid fire progressive riff before screaming to a stop.

"O'er Hell and Hide" starts up with an acoustic and suddenly softer riff. This makes for a nice contrast as it goes on for about a minute before going into another powerful frenzy with the full band. Spoken vocals come in for a short time as music continues to play behind it. Heavy growling appears here and there between the vocal readings. More great instrumentals and effects carry the track to its conclusion. "War, Wisdom and Rhyme" continues the feel of this track right away. Vocals, both heavy and clean, begin and the track continues to deliver progressive heaviness with a non-traditional song structure in the same style as Tool and Mastadon.

"Blackpowder Orchard" is a quick acoustic/electric guitar solo which makes a nice effect, but is over too quickly. "The Gnashing" starts with a pensive electric guitar melody. Bass begins to establish a slow walking rhythm. A steady beat then takes over and intensity builds as the beat increases in tempo and a heavy extended instrumental continues before vocals come in for a few short verses well into the 2nd half of the track. All of this ends with the final track "Bullhead's Lament". This is a nice, slow instrumental that is an effective closer to the album.

The use of tempo, dynamics and progressive dual guitar riffs make this album an amazing Progressive Metal album from beginning to end. It is as good as "The Red Album" and continues to show the talent of this band, and if they had continued in this style, it could have established them as one of the best progressive metal bands out there. Unfortunately, a turn towards a more accessible sound in the next album helped them lose this foothold they were establishing. Even though the sound stays heavy, it ends up losing its progressive flavor. But, at least for this album, you still get a great album full of amazing riffs and progressive characteristics enough to make any prog head and metal head happy.

TCat | 4/5 |


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