Baroness rightly became metal and indie darlings after their Relapse debut, and Blue Record, their 2009 follow-up earned even more accolades. So why do I have such a hard time getting entry into its many, many strengths? After giving it a few more listens the past few days, I think I have the answer. It still doesn’t top Red Album for me, but I can really see this as the album (or record) where the band finally carve out their real identity, one of passion and pain and a heart that strives for light.
And the conclusion I’ve come to? It all boils down to the choice of opener. No, not “Bullhead’s Pslam” which is a lovely theme that finds its way back again on closer “Bullhead’s Lament.” No, it’s “The Sweetest Curse” which feels so much like a Mastodon track it’s impossible to find the kernels of identity Baroness had crafted to that point. It’s a perfectly fine song, but the truth is for me it’s a perfectly fine Mastodon song, and feels a it at odds with the rest of Blue Record. Fair? No, but I cannot help it. Things pick up considerably with the next track, “Jake Leg” which instantly feels like Baroness.
But it’s not an opener. I’ve tried moving from the intro straight to it, but it doesn’t quite work. Nor does moving any of the other tracks, all of which are sequenced beautifully. I love the interludes that punctuate the record, particularly “Ogeechee Hymnal” and how it crashes into the triumphant thunder of “A Horse Called Golgotha.” It’s this combination of deep heaviness and major chord swooning that really defines a lot of Baroness for me…how they’re able to find the light in pain, and vice versa.
At 45 minutes it’s just about the perfect length. I just wish I could get over “The Sweetest Curse” and this just might be my favorite Baroness album.
Maybe if they opened with “Ray On Pinion” it could work?