Red mixed with blue give you purple, so it stands to reason there’s an element of mixing at play with Purple, the most recent release from Baroness. Coming almost four years after Yellow & Green, and also after the traumatic accident that almost cost John Baizley his arm, there’s a sense of bruised urgency to the tightened song structures that make for a great return to form for the band, as well as a clarity of intent and identity.
One thing to address right off the bat: the production and mastering of this album is HOT. To the point of almost breaking apart. A lot has been made of this across the always fair and even-handed message boards, to the point where Baizley came on to address that this was intentional. Listening to Purple my first two thoughts are 1) the mastering isn’t nearly as terrible as folks make it out to be, and in fact feels true to the songs in a way the milquetoast production on Yellow & Green didn’t, and 2) I do believe there’s a real intention behind it, as it really adds to the painful, cathartic nature of the songs, some of the best Baizley and team have committed.
Opener “Morningstar” still feels a little like a retread of Mastodon, but when it comes to the solos and chorus it opens up wonderfully, exposing the real strength of Baroness – their ability to inject clear and simple passion into their songs. “Shock Me” is a powerhouse and really feels like distilled Baroness, although I’ll admit due to my age I always wait for Ace Frehley to shout out “Shock me! Make me feel better!” Going through there’s not a weak song on the album, and the compact 45 minute runtime means it’s over before you know it, and you want to start it all over again.
Coming back to the actual discs, sometimes I get into the habit of when I like a band, I’ll pick their stuff up even if there’s a miss. You have to have faith, I guess. Although as I get older I’m more prone to bowing out than hanging in there, particularly with metal. I was thinking this came with being less enthused with the genre in general, and while that’s true, I think it stems more from not being a zealot when it comes to bands. Take Baroness for a moment: I don’t care for Yellow & Green, and I don’t really care to argument over whether I should or not. Mainly because I still have Red Album and Blue Record to come back to again and again (and Purple, I guess – I like it a lot more now than I did then). I don’t hate the band, don’t love the band – a bad album doesn’t tarnish what came before, and I guess rather than bemoan the present I’m content to live in the past. We spend so much time trying to justify stuff like this it gets tired. I’d rather just listen to what I love…maybe we’ll come round to each other again down the road.
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Reading that last paragraph back I kinda lost the thread. But this is supposed to be a review, and it isn’t supposed to conform to your own views on the record. So I guess I’ll leave this tattered thought here to picked up again later…it’s worth having a more coherent post on its own.