Say what you will about John Dyer Baizley’s artistry, either aural or visual, but it’s undeniable that the man has a very specific style that has remained consistent across his career. His visual work carries a very particular weight to it, courtesy of the thick, curvy linework and oily, saturated colors that define the album covers he’s done for bands across the years, including Skeletonwitch and Kvelertak, and his music, which takes the form of the sludge-metal-meets-alt-rock act Baroness, has a similarly weighty, melancholy, and deeply rich vibe to it.
Their new album, Purple, continuing in the “albums named for colors” trend they’ve had since their first record, Red, is going to be their most detailed album yet, if the new single, “Shock Me”, is any indication. Coming two and a half months after the first track from the upcoming full length, “Chlorine & Wine”, it displays a band that is locked in, comfortable in their identity and capabilities. The first song was very much a slow build into a soft, if energetic, conclusion; “Shock Me” starts out strong and maintains a consistent level of energy throughout, almost anthemic in nature and easy to nod along with.
Although it’s taken me some time to accept the fact that there will never again be new Baroness in the vein of their two albums, Red and Blue, since I never really could find much enjoyment in their 2012 double album, Yellow/Green, “Shock Me” finds me coming to grips with this. After all, another one of my favorite sludge acts, Kylesa, has slowly been coming softer and softer, as have sludge-metallers-turned-prog-rockers Mastodon. These sensations all had their heyday of aggression, and now, a more focused, precise, introspective brand of music is emerging from these 2000’s groups. It’s an interesting trend, but by and large, these bands are still pumping out fantastic music, even if it is in a different vein than their earlier work.
“Shock Me” finds Baroness ready to face forward and take the next big step in their career. The time of “The Birthing” and “A Horse Called Golgotha” is over; this is a band reborn and prepared to use their knowledge of sludge metal and alternative rock to create a compelling and deliberate combination of hard-hitting riffery and dreamy, lilting soundscapes that elevate both elements to a new plane of musicality. Purple comes out on December 18th, and that day can’t come soon enough.