"Yellow & Green"

By Earthdog

Baroness are not the easiest band to review so when I heard 'Yellow & Green' was going to be a double album my anxiety level exploded. However, listening to the album, things became a little clearer because a lot of this sprawling album is samey and it really didn't need to be a double album anyway. The total playing time is less than 80 minutes so it could have easily fit onto a single disc. Even more perplexing is there is little difference between the yellow and green discs so there is no real concept to justify having 2 CD's in this set. Regardless of those questions, this is a massive listening experience.

There are 18 songs that can be listened to in one of two ways. There is the psychedelic, sludge, doom side of the band which for most people is Baroness but strip back the layers to these songs are really you hear an alternative, post-rock, almost pop band hiding behind sludgy or doomy riffs. There is also a fair portion of this extended album that is different from anything the band has done before. There are very little... almost none... real aggressive vocals. Instead they have opted for a melodic approach based around catchy harmonies. There is also very little in the way of huge riffs; that has been replaced mostly by shimmering guitars that are deceptively poppy sounding if you really analyzed them. It seems that Baroness are revealing to the world that they are true fans of 70's progressive rock and all eras of classic pop music. There is indeed a large section of this album that could pass for a long-lost Yes or Genesis album but while it is mostly relaxing, light-weight material, they are still some harder, riffy moments but of course you have to dig through almost 80 minutes of music to find those passages.


Starting with the yellow themed disc and their obviously different approach is there from the get-go. The opening trio of songs; 'the Yellow Theme intro,' 'Take My Bones Away' and 'March To The Sea' are lush, emotive pieces that are basically prog meets psychedelic grooves wearing pop clothes. It isn't a stretch of the imagination to think this stuff could easily be played on mainstream radio. These songs have some solid bass-grooves and engaging lead guitar melodies but the songs are short and wrapped up in very concise pop arrangements and not much changes for the rest of the "Yellow" disc. 'Cocainium' stands out more than most because it features the albums only real Sabbathian moment and is heavier than most of the material on the double disc set. The guitar and keyboards work with each other in creating a multi-dimensional layered sound that is about as close as the album gets to the Baroness of old. 'Back Where I Belong' is a very proggy pop instrumental and again it echoes the vibe that bands like Yes had in the later part of the 70's. 'Sea Lungs' is one of the albums more bleaker moments that is reeking of melancholy and mysterious ambience. The same can be said for the track that closes disc one 'Eula' that is one part acoustic and dreamy but one part heavy prog rock. The last half of this track brings disc one to a exhilarating more metallic than usual closing piece but by that stage, it is too little, too late as most of the disc one is too laid-back for its own good. I don't think Baroness are trying for mainstream success but there is a vibe of, keeping it safe and as non-threatening as possible for all the disc's 40 minutes.


The green disc starts off with another intro piece before moving into the first real track titled 'Board Up the House;' the albums most hook-laden track. The track does display hints of doom metal in an ambient kind of way but this is really the last trace of doom for the entire album. As the rest of the green disc plays on, the album becomes even more tranquil and laid-back, almost to the point of coma-inducing. There are moments of louder, heavier passages as in 'Psalms Alive' which is probably the liveliest track this second disc has to offer. The green disc is more melancholic than "Yellow" and has more of an experimental flavour and less of the poppy elements but it gets to a point where it all sounds the same. The laid back tracks all seem to bleed together and it gets pretty hard to tell one track from the next. The two discs follow a similar pattern, just like the first disc, there is an instrumental, in this case it is 'Stretchmarker' which at least has a shift in dynamics. The album ends on an instrumental epilogue 'If I Forget Thee, Lowcountry' but if you have made it this far in one sitting, you might just feel you have endured a very bloated, long-winded album of the same ideas reworked, recycled, and repeated.

Baroness are great musicians and this album does have great depth and if you judge each track on its own merits, they are all good tunes. As a whole piece of work however, it is all too samey, long-winded and meandering. I am pretty sure that long-time fans of the band that got their rocks off to albums like 2007's 'Red Album' will be wondering what they are trying to do with this 'Yellow & Green' release and I also doubt if this will attract any new fans either. If they are trying to get some kind of mainstream appeal happening, I can't see it really happening as the songs are still too psychedelic and prog-laced for most people to endure. I have never been totally sold on Baroness and now I am even less impressed but as usual with this band, they have released a intriguing album but I can't say much more than that.....Average by Baroness standards...6/10