BARONESS - CD
GOLD & GREY
Sony Music Japan - Out now
It has been seven years since Baroness were in a horrific bus crash that mercifully and miraculously killed no one but left deep physical and mental scars; two members subsequently leaving, understandably unable to continue. With new members in place, they took to the road again releasing their fourth studio album, Purple in 2017 to great critical acclaim and now, their fifth, Gold & Grey, with another new member, guitarist Gina Gleason. Is it any good? Oh yes.
It is so nice to hear a Metal album with textures and this album is loaded with them. Delicate instrumentals, thundering bass, drums and guitars, eerie pianos, souring vocals and soft orchestras all contribute to an album that is in my mind, Baroness’ finest to date. It’s eclectic and it may take a while for some people to accept it but there is no way to criticize the composition and execution of the songs. The performances are excellent, the instrumentation is not overly tight or too compressed and a lot thought that has gone into the arrangements. The songs are not stretched too far and the melodies are simply lovely and really suit the lyrics. The song writing credits incidentally go to the entire band so it’s nice to Gina has come in and made an instant contribution in that area. In truth this could have all gone horribly wrong because there are so many elements but as mentioned, a lot of thought has gone into it and that includes the running order which rides waves and then plunges into troughs before lifting you back out and doing it all again.
Once again mixed by veteran Flaming Lips engineer David Fridmann, the mix is raw, almost low-fi and you can hear the VU meters in the red in places but it feels right and that’s the important part. Some of the sound reminded me of the older Black Sabbath albums Sabbath Bloody Sabbath and Vol. 4 which by today’s standards are a bit muddy but more clarity and the impact would not be the same. That said, there are moments of brilliance in the mix- check out Seasons on headphones for the full impact.
Front-man, guitarist and lead singer John Dyer Baizley has done the artwork s he has for all their albums so it sits nicely alongside their previous releases and looks like a collection. His artwork has progressed as the band’s music has and I predict one day he’ll be talked about in the same circles as Roger Dean, Derek Riggs and Storm Thorgerson.
With so many new CDs released in the Metal market every month these days, it is difficult to select and keep a few that will keep you entertained and still be valid in years to come. Gold & Grey is one of those to keep.
Front Toward Enemy
I’m Already Gone
Throw Me An Anchor
I’d Do Anything
Blankets Of Ash
Assault On East Falls
THE SYNTH LORD - CD
THE SYNTH AS SOUL
Independent Release - Out now
Before I begin, I would like to point out that I receive a lot of independent CDs to review and 99% of them receive a polite decline for one reason or another but occasionally something comes along that is so good, it’s impossible not to review it. Now, without further ado when was the last time you heard something that harks back to the past but also moves forward? Something that is original but based on the familiar? A new way of playing an established genre? Welcome to The Synth Lord.
Aptly named, this disc is an sonic overload of synths, drum machines, sound effects, vocals and god knows what other instruments that spin around your stereo (or headphones if you prefer but pu-leaaaaase, no earbuds) in a kaleidoscope of sound, all beautifully defined and separated in multiple layers that pan left and right, front and back. If that’s a lot of information to take in for the first sentence, that’s because that’s exactly how the album sounds. Just twenty seconds in to the first track and your brain will be scrambling to comprehend it all and forty seconds in, the first, of many, curve balls. Track two opens with a Metal guitar and drum punctuation topped with a manic sequencer (honestly, it works) and then goes into a sublime piece of pure Pop with one of the finest choruses I’ve heard for years – lyrically and melodically perfect and has ‘No. 1 hit’ written all over it. That’s not the only gem on the album though, this record is full of them and demands your attention, grabbing your ears from start to finish.
If I sound like I’m raving, I am and it’s tempting to go through this track by track but that would only bore you all stupid and would never do the album justice anyway. Suffice to say, every song is well composed, performed and recorded with no overcrowding instrumentally. There are excellent melodies throughout and the production is top notch; a real old school sound but with a twist for the modern day Techno enthusiast. A lot of recordings today do not stand up to different volume levels, often distorting at high outputs or having no punch at low ones but I cranked this up on my stereo and the dynamics were astonishing, with clarity right up to a deafening level – even my neighbours liked it.
This my friends is where Synth Pop Rock Metal (if there is such a genre and if there isn't, there should be) should be going in the future. It’s The Human League, Howard Jones and Gary Numan jamming on the USS Enterprise; Lady Gaga gone gaga; Bowie in 2050.
I Am Not The One You Want
Fame And Fortune
We Are Not Alone
The End Of Times