Baroness – ‘Gold & Grey’

By Dave Stewart

Baroness are one of the most respected and well-loved bands in metal today, and for good reason. Their records are consistently brilliant, having racked up numerous awards nominations and countless mentions on ‘Greatest Albums Of All Time’ lists from various publications.

Not only is the music adored, but their spirit and passion is greatly admired too. In 2012 they were involved in a tragic bus crash – the severity of which forced some of the band members to leave as a result of their injuries. That would’ve written off most bands, but front man and founding member John Baizley decided to use music to help him heal and continued to push forwards. After a couple of line up changes, their last record ‘Purple’ was written amidst that healing process. A few more years on, ‘Gold & Grey’ shows a well oiled machine, and it’s operating smoother than ever before.

‘Front Toward Enemy’ kicks off proceedings just as a Baroness record should – with sleazy, dirty, tasty riffs. The bass tone is just as filthy as the guitar tone, filling your ears with the finest fuzz as Baizley’s powerful voice glides alongside it. The record is rife with the same calibre of guitar work, most prominent on tracks like the roaring ‘Seasons’, the unforgiving ‘Throw Me An Anchor’ and the intricate ‘Borderlines’. This album isn’t all balls to the wall, though – this album is a story, and the twists in the plot are what truly make it special.

‘Tourniquet’ is a dreamscape put through a distortion pedal, painting a lavish and detailed picture that’s forever morphing into something bigger than you first perceived. ‘I’d Do Anything’ is a haunting lullaby, using every second to lull you into a state of complete calm. There are anthemic gems too such as ‘Broken Halo’, boasting gigantic catchy choruses and some stunning guitar licks that have been drenched in emotion. The vocals really stand out on tracks like this, and a lot of the credit for that goes to their new guitarist and backing vocalist Gina Gleason. Her voice acts as the perfect compliment to Baizley’s passionate delivery, almost like their voices were made for each other.

As this record plays out like a story it eventually has to come to an end, and the final track ‘Pale Sun’ closes the record in the most perfect way. The scorched, hazy tones swell and peak before gradually drifting away, followed by Baizley’s voice slowly reverberating into nothingness. The only remaining original member of the band, creating the final piece of noise on the final piece of their chromatically-themed records.

This record sounds exactly how you’d expect it to, but that isn’t a bad thing. It shows that Baroness haven’t lost their edge – they’re completely tuned into their sound and know exactly how to manipulate it into something that’s unmistakably theirs. The end result is their best structured and naturally flowing record to date – a beautiful, hard hitting and elaborate offering. It’s as though every other record in their career has been building to this one, creating a masterpiece to sit proudly atop their discography.

This doesn’t just demonstrate a band writing and performing at their very best – it shows a band that have been to hell and back and come out the other side stronger because of it. ‘Gold & Grey’ represents progression, healing, perseverance and ultimately, triumph. It’s the sixth and final piece in their chromatically-themed records, and cements their legacy as one of the finest metal bands of our time.

DAVE STEWART

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