Album Review: BARONESS Gold & Grey (with Full Album Stream)
It's been 12 years since Baroness started their trip around the color wheel. From 2007's Red Album to today's Gold & Grey, it's certainly been an adventure for John Dyer Baizley and his bandmates. The years through which these albums span have been marked by many things—worldwide acclaim, stylistic switches, lineup changes, and a bus accident among others. Baizley is the sole original member from the beginning of the vibrant excursion. As he and Baroness morphed over the decade-plus, the music they created grew in scale and breadth. The early albums carried a sludge-laden tone synonymous with their home state of Georgia. The more recent years, however, showcase a focal shift towards rock, classic heavy metal, and instrumental experimentation. On Baroness' lengthy color cycle conclusion, Gold & Grey, Baizley and company gather every moment and scheme from the last 12 years and paint the band's most radiant work to date.
Among the biggest headlines coming into Gold & Grey was the addition of Gina Gleason (guitars/vocals) following the departure of Pete Adams in 2017. Her addition, along with the return of Nick Jost (bass/keys) and Seb Thomson (drums), give Baizley his most diverse collection of talent under the Baroness name. While the album's length could be seen as a point of detraction—it's one song less than Yellow & Green, but technically not a double album—the longer running time gives the quartet room to operate.
Baizley and Gleason's vocal harmonies make tracks like "I'd Do Anything," "Emmett-Radiating Light," and "Cold Blooded Angels" incredibly poignant. The pairing of the former's deeper snarl and the latter's higher register creates a more evident layering than previous albums. This strategy emerges on nearly every song on the album as well to varying capacities. It is not just the vocal harmonies that add depth to Gold & Grey, though.
Though initially present on the preceding Purple, the instrumental range Baroness covers on Gold & Grey continues to widen. Nick Jost’s background in jazz as well as his keyboard contributions, in part, made Purple a phenomenal endeavor. These tools in conjunction with Baizley’s synths, bells, and chimes craft Gold & Grey's gleaming interludes like "Sevens" or "Blankets of Ash" and undertones of ambiance like on the heartwrenching "Tourniquet."
There are semblances of the Baroness of the late aughts too. "Throw Me An Anchor" could have very easily slotted onto Red Album or Blue Record in the day. "Broken Halo" is another example. Elsewhere, Thomson breaks out blast beats on "Seasons"—that has never happened on a Baroness record before. These brief examples, be it the diverse range, the vocal harmonies, or the callbacks to the band's roots, all point to a more improvisational and experimental approach to the band.
By comparison, Gold & Grey is like Baizley and company took the brakes off Yellow & Green or stretched Purple to its breaking point. There are so many facets of metal and rock wonderfully woven into this record that Baroness has been working towards for so long, it plays out as a vision realized—an undertaking coming full circle.
Gold & Grey marks the closing of a thematic journey for Baroness. The past 12 years have turned the once sludge-tinged band into one of the most important and prolific forces in modern metal and rock. For a band once synonymous with a regional sound, crafting a sustaining, idiosyncratic voice could be seen as the band’s crowning achievement. Yet, for all that Baizley and his bandmates have done, there is much more behind that climb to the upper echelon of metallic titans that has been cut wide open in their music. Baroness' artistic excellence and visceral emotional display throughout each arrangement are as vibrant as the art that adorns their album covers. Among the rich palette of colors and sounds Baroness has crafted, Gold & Grey is the brightest and most striking of them all.
Stream the entire album now over at NPR.