Saturday, October 17, 2009

Record Review: Blue Record [Deluxe]

About a month ago, we talked about pre-ordering the Blue Record by Savannah, GA's Baroness. Well, it's out, and I've had a chance to give it a few listens. Not sure if it quite equals the preceding Red Album, but that was my #1 album of 2007. (Hey look! Someone put up the entire thing as a YouTube playlist, so I'll keep the song-specific links limited.)

Blue Record (2009)
I was wrong about Blue being "cooler" or more mellow than Red, it's not. There are more intros, outros, and interlude tracks (some of them quieter) - but for the most part, the actual songs are equally brutal. If anything, this one's got more of the multi-section prog breaks than before. After the opening/intro instrumental track, "The Sweetest Curse" and especially "Jake Leg" bring on the Baroness assault we expect. Drum fills are piled up, guitar notes are bent, and abstract ancient-sounding nonsense is bellowed.

"Steel That Sleeps the Eye" is the clearest example of the newest element. Beyond its acoustic nature, it's really the dual vocals that are unprecedented. New guitarist Pete Adams has a sweeter-sounding voice than lead-singer Baizley, and they mix well. On many of the songs, but most obviously in this short series of rounds on what ends up a noise-and-oscillator intro (each song runs right through into the next). "Swollen and Halo" begins with watery tandem guitars and insistent beat, before breaking loose into an open run. Later there's a long breakdown section, where the watery guitar joins back in the chase, and frets and drumheads are variously abused. "Ogeechee Hymnal" (all of the interludes have names like "Bullhead's Psalm" or "Blackpowder Orchard") sounds like the prog-influenced side of Ween, or maybe stately King Crimson.

"A Horse Called Golgotha" gives the Baroness crowd what they paid for: heavy-duty, hard-charging, ever-shifting metal mayhem. Already love the descending run of the early section, as well as the mega-fuzz solo into slower acoustic bombast. It was the original preview song for good reason. "O'er Hell and Hide" is galloping rock under spoken indigenous paganisms, "War, Wisdom and Rhyme" seems to gather some of the previous musical themes - not bad. Another intro mixes the finger-picking of Red's "Cockroach en Fleur" with some spidery, overdriven lead.

And finally, "The Gnashing" is a good closer. The first half or so almost reaches My Morning Jacket-style stadium-roots-rock, but the vocal back half is clearly Baroness: jittery leads, frenetic drums, straightforward shouting. Oh, and there's one final outro/reprise instrumental track. So, first impressions are that Blue Record is a worthy follow-up to probably my favorite real metal album of recent times. And I actually expect to like it much better with further listens.

Looks like the vinyl 2xLP will be released October 27th (possibly November 3rd). Fortunately, I ordered the Deluxe CD edition. Unfortunately, it does not contain the entire Roadburn 2009 set. But it does have 5 songs, 30+ minutes from the show. And here's the opener "The Birthing":

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