With Purple, Baroness Completes An Unlikely Comeback Story
By Jeff Feuerhaken
It’s kinda funny how I first found out about Baroness. Back in 2012, I was going to see my first ever Cirque Du Soleil, “Iris”, which was an interpretation of the history of film with music by my favorite composer, Danny Elfman. The show (which was amazing, but I digress) was at the Dolby Theater in Hollywood, and due to my enthusiasm, my girlfriend-at-the-time and I had arrived way too early. We had an hour to kill before the show, and it turns out a Hard Rock Café is directly adjacent to the theater, so we decided to have (quite) a few drinks beforehand. So I’m several beers in at this point, and I found myself watching the music videos on the screens they have behind the bar. Most of the videos they played were the standard crap (sorry, Nickelback), but this one video that came on completely caught my attention. The music actually rocked. Hard. And it was unlike anything I’d heard before. After the video was done, I made a mental note to remember the name of the band so I could check them out when I had time. Unfortunately, the note was only mental and not physical, so of course I forgot the band’s name. In fact, I spent most of the next day online, looking up rock sites and videos, trying to find anything that would ring a bell. No such luck. It seemed the band would be lost forever, my personal Loch Ness Monster.
About 6 months later, I’m looking through some year-end best of lists online trying to find some cool new music, and I stumble onto this band called Baroness. I heard a song and dug it, so I bought the album. I started playing track 1, “Take My Bones Away”, and imagine my delight and surprise as I realized THIS WAS THE SONG FROM THE HARD ROCK CAFE VIDEO!! Finally, my search had reached a successful conclusion. I loved the rest of the album (which was basically a double album) and I was hungry for more Baroness.
About the time I was discovering Baroness, members of the band and some of their crew were involved in a horrific bus crash in England, which left scars both physical and emotional on the band. In fact, the scars of the latter type were so severe for the band’s bassist and drummer, that they quit the band. Completely over it. To my dismay, it looked like Baroness was done for. Well, at least I had 2012’s Yellow & Green to listen to when I was in the mood. However, as all the scars began to heal, the band gathered themselves up, hired a new bassist and drummer, and made the decision to press onwards.
Which brings us to the release of their latest album, Purple. I didn’t mean for this to be a history lesson, but I think it’s important to understand what obstacles this band has faced leading up to the recording of this new album. Simply put, Purple is excellent. It’s by no means a perfect album, but Baroness continues to do what most bands won’t: something different. Some of the tracks off the album are downright heavy, such as the monster intro/outro that bookends the opener, “Morningstar”, and the chuggery of “Desperation Burns”. However, what sets this band apart from their contemporaries is that they’re also surprisingly adept at dishing out some genuinely beautiful, mellow sections. The melody and vocal harmonies from the outro in “Kerosene” is a shining example. There are also some anthemic, powerful choruses, such as that in “Try To Disappear”, and the synthesizer intro to “Shock Me” reminds me of the music in an 80’s movie. There’s a ton of variety here, people.
The talent level in Baroness is undeniable. These guys are multi-instrumentalists who aren’t afraid to stray from the Vox-Guitar-Bass-Drums standard when a certain song calls for it. The result is music with wide-ranging dynamics and highly intricate song structures. Basically, if Queen tuned their guitars down and started jamming stoner-rock anthems, they would pretty much be Baroness. If you’re on the fence about whether you should check this album out, take a listen to the track “Chlorine & Wine”, and if that masterpiece doesn’t make you feel something, than clearly Purple isn’t for you. I, however, am a fan, and I highly recommend the new album. Oh, and by the way, if you ever discover an awesome new band and resolve to make a mental note to remember them, for gosh sakes just write it down somewhere!