Rockers Baroness moving beyond metal


Ever seen “Waking Life,” Richard Linklater’s animated, metaphysical meditation on the bounds of reality?

John Baizley could have been a character in said film.

And, being an accomplished visual artist as well as a musician, he could have drawn himself, even.

As frontman for aspirational hard rockers Baroness, Baizley’s the kind of guy who doesn’t have to fall asleep to dream — it often seems like his natural state of being.

Baizley’s free-range artistic inclinations power Baroness’ music, which is metallic at its core, but also strangely beautiful, like a flower growing from a crack in a sidewalk.

It’s as uninhibited as heavy music gets.

“We’re trying to buck back against a system, by which I mean the music industry, which largely thrives on orthodoxy and repetition,” Baizley says. “I think that all the great acts throughout history have been those who subvert their own paradigms or look outwards from the center. That’s quite literally what we do. If, as a listener, your thing is the same idea repeated over and over again to a point of ultimate refinement, then we’re not your band.”

Baroness’ latest record, the two-disc “Yellow & Green,” one of 2012’s best releases, sees the band blooming in a number of new directions all at once.

On their first two efforts, 2007’s “The Red Album” and 2009’s “The Blue Record,” the band explored the outer limits of knotty progressive metal with the shared adventurousness of fellow Georgians Mastodon, Kylesa and Zoroaster.

But on “Yellow & Green,” Baroness moves beyond metal, although it’s plenty forceful in places and still hard hitting enough to appeal to fans of the group’s previous records.

There’s a heaviness to “Yellow & Green” for sure, but it comes more in the form of emotional weight than churning riffs and bellowed vocals.

Over the course of 18 tracks, the band both peels back the layers on their sound on haunting, spare hymnals while also adding texture to acoustic based tunes with electronic highlights, resulting in a record that’s alternately skeletal and dense.

It’s not a concept album with a linear narrative thread, but there is a maritime motif that runs through it all, with frequent allusions to the sea, to dropping anchor, to drifting away, to drowning.

You could equate listening to “Yellow & Green” to plunging into the ocean, to be immersed in something all consuming, but Baizley says that the aquatic theme was not something calculated.

“That was an after-the-fact thing,” he says. “I think it speaks to the subconscious.”

Above all, “Yellow & Green” is an intense listen, sedate one minute, storming the next, simultaneously vehement and vulnerable.

“Tell me when I will be whole again,” Baizley sings on “March to the Sea,” one of the album’s most climactic tunes, and this record feels like a journey toward this end, though there is no clear sense of resolution to be found here, no tidy ending, as the record unfolds as a grand emotional release that’s pointedly open to interpretation.

Baizley’s striking artwork adorns the cover of “Yellow & Green,” and all of the band’s other releases, as well as records by bands such as Pig Destroyer, Torche, Flight of the Concords, Kvelertak and plenty of others. His color-saturated paintings are gorgeous and sometimes unnerving, often featuring the feminine form adorned by skulls, swans, snakes and flowers.

Baizley’s art mirrors his music, and vice versa, in the sense that the images are distinctly his, he has own style, but at the same time, it’s a deliberately fluid one.

Neither is an easy sell.

They’re challenging, unyielding and steadfast in purpose — kind of like the dude currently on the other end of the phone.

“It’s a great place to be, but it can be somewhat alienating,” Baizley says of the niche he and his bandmates have carved for themselves. “That’s what keeps us involved.

“If we stand by it, if it’s got an emotional core that we can buy into, then by transitive property, I assume there will be somebody else out there who will connect with it,” he says. “Then I fall asleep easy at the end of the night because I go, ‘Well, we haven’t had to cater to the whims of the masses yet and we haven’t had to take direction from anybody.’ We just do what we do.”

Contact reporter Jason Bracelin at jbracelin@ reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0476.

 

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