STONE, the sixth album by Baroness, was released Friday, and with it comes over 45 minutes of practiced musicianship and dismissiveness towards what could be this writer’s perception of metal expectations.
The record sprawls and hits on everything it tries, whether that be acoustic guitars or polished vocal harmonies. These attempts are not only pleasantly successful in adding texture and depth, but also in helping the songs transcend beyond the limitations that heavy metal music can often inflict upon itself in its attempts to be the loudest or heaviest or darkest.
The beautiful harmonies of short interlude “The Dirge” don’t radiate a hint of metal, making it all the more impactful in a record packed with riffage. Its composition, at its core, resembles the work of Fleet Foxes and the like, making the next track, “Anodyne,” feel fresh. Providing respite in metal records can open windows to artists’ hearts in a genre typically shrouded by imagery, metaphors and impenetrable noise. Not to mention, trying new styles and ways of playing does nothing but display the versatility of the musicians in Baroness.
Preceding “The Dirge” is the immensely interesting “Choir,” a track where the drums never rest, even when the crunchy, detuned guitars give way to more ethereal, atmospheric soundscapes. It’s perhaps the song that best represents the record in its ability to grab the listener with its restrained power. It’s clear the band can rock, which is why it’s so unique when they hold back.
There’s some great dual-guitar interplay tucked away in the depths of this record’s longer songs, too. “Shine” let’s itself build and then breaks itself back down again about halfway through, revolving around a riff that, while not technically masterful, is still engaging and serving of the song.
“Magnolia” follows, and with it comes more guitar work that alternates between punchy riffing and intricate, melodic playing.
The sign of a great album is when one genre label doesn’t quite do it justice. In the case of Baroness and STONE, “metal” isn’t enough to describe the expansiveness that takes place. And neither is “alternative,” given the simple fact that there’s plenty of crushing riffs for any headbangers that might find themselves here.
order STONE by Baroness HERE
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