Baroness - Blue Record
Relapse Records
Progressive Sludge Metal
12 songs (44:25)
Release year: 2009
Relapse Records
Reviewed by James

After a good few years honing their brand of psychedelic sludge metal, it's fair to say Baroness unquestionably arrived with 2007's Red Album, a release that delighted critics and raised the ire of purists, Baroness becoming poster boys for the nebulously-defined tag of “hipster metal”, a motley collection of the likes of Wolves In The Throne Room, Mastodon and even Converge, at a push. All, in my opinion, accomplished bands who's only real crime is to have crossed over into a non-metal audience. Blue Record seems destined to suffer the same fate as its predecessor, the band working with The Paper Chase frontman and Modest Mouse/St Vincent/ Explosions In The Sky producer John Congleton. Not that the band's work with indie rock luminaries is anything new, with their second demo being produced by none other than Pavement drummer Steve West. Even frontman John Dyer Baizely's day job as an artist seems to be breaking into the mainstream, one of his latest works being the cover art for New Zealand comedy-folksters Flight Of The Conchords' second release.

Hipsters or not, it can't be denied, however, that Blue Record is a storming record. The Mastodon comparisons are still fitting, Baizely's roar recalling that of Troy Sanders, but Baroness' particular brand of intricate progressive sludge feels distinctly different from the former's band's Crack The Skye, also released this year to similar acclaim. Baroness aren't yet as refined as the Atlanta heavyweights, still carrying the primal weight of Leviathan. Blue Record crackles with the fire of a young band with a shot at the big time. Standout track A Horse Called Golgotha kicks in with galloping drums and intricate harmonies before settling into a meaty mid-paced chug in its' verses. While Congleton could have perhaps captured the bands elemental fury more (the drums are too low in the mix for my liking, often being more rattling than thunderous) he's done a sterling job on the band's guitar sound, being every bit as lush and detailed as the record's aquatic artwork. He reserves his trippiest tones for Swollen And Halo, where the band smooth their hyperkinetic sounds into psychedelic grooves.

It should be noted, too, just how well Blue Record flows. Each track transitions into the other perfectly, often sounding like movements in one cohesive piece rather than individual songs. And it's for this reason that Blue Record's 45-minutes fly by in an instant. And while occasionally in the second half of the record the band's songwriting chops fall off a bit, there's something new at every twist or turn to keep you hooked throughout. Baizely, and new member Peter Adams' guitar interplay is the highlight of the album, with a sense of spontaneous fun that recalls instrumetallers The Fucking Champs.

For a big, shiny, critically acclaimed metal record, Blue Record does not fail. It packs more riffs and ideas into 45-minutes than some bands do in 70, and combines refinement and maturity with youthful energy. Hate all you want, but the fact remains that Baroness are one of the rising star's of metal's class of 2009.

Killing Songs :
All, pretty much.
James quoted 86 / 100
Other albums by Baroness that we have reviewed:
Baroness - Purple reviewed by Andy and quoted 82 / 100
Baroness - Yellow & Green reviewed by Milan and quoted 80 / 100
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