Review: Baroness – Stone
For me, a fairly long-time fan and at heart a pretty earnest person, Baroness‘ emotional palette of dogged determination, wistful longing, and bittersweet reflection forms a picture of a whole life. The album’s structure adds greatly to this effect. Moods vary within and between songs, and the album is bookended by a lilting, not-quite-mournful bit of melody and lyrics. It occurs in the intro; the dawn brings a little sunshine in the guitar, and it ends with an eerie synth stab, which breaks into the first proper track’s big, crunchy riff. In the outro, the sunshine has been reduced to a bronze glow filtering in through the window. You can watch flakes of dust float in its beams as you reflect on the entirety of the journey, in what may be one of the last days.
This depth and breadth of mood has always been central to Baroness’ identity, in sound as well as lyrics. Here as ever, the lyrics are earthy in a dreamy kind of way. Flesh, metals, weight, bells, plants, and stone abound. There’s always a feeling of weight and inevitability—Baizley loves him an anchor. But the weight seems to pull us towards death but also and maybe simultaneously, towards home.
Baizley came face-to-face with death—and a distant relative, in fact—while strolling through a local cemetery, but he also realized that Stone means so much more, from struggle and support to perseverance and comfort. He states:
Sure, there’s death, but there’s memory, too. I found that almost peaceful. There’s a song on Pink Floyd‘s Animals where they use stone as a metaphor for a grave, but it’s presented in this almost polite, poetic way. That was definitely going through my mind.”
In more concrete terms, Stone is exactly the kind of album I want from latter-day Baroness. While we’re never getting another Red or Blue, there are moments here that wouldn’t be out of place on them. What we get for the rest of the runtime is dreamy Americana-twinged heavy psych rock. The production isn’t adventurous like Gold and Grey’s was. It’s really nice to my ears, in fact. Maybe the snare hits are a little heavy sometimes, but the soundscape is expansive enough to hear each musician well, as well as the generous effects that add so much to the album’s atmosphere. Everyone has standout moments, too. Baizley can still roar when he wants to, as on standout track “Magnolia”, and dual vocals with him and Gina Gleason are nice. Sebastian Thomson’s drums often add little points of interest with little skitters and off-beat hits, as does Nick Jost’s bass.
Not everything hits. The half-spoken bits on “Beneath the Rose” get points for doing something different, but they don’t feel at home here. “Under the Wheel” is a better bit of experimentation. It’s a long, grinding, somewhat Neurosis slow-burn complete with Baizley’s old-school bellow, but it overstays its welcome a touch. There are a few points in the album that wouldn’t feel out of place on rock radio, but they’re not bad and they’re always just parts of a more interesting, more distinctly Baroness song.
Honestly, reviewing this album invigorated my interest in the band’s last few albums. I hadn’t given them much time, blinded by production and the fact that they aren’t Red or Blue. They’re pretty good, but Stone is probably the best of the pack going back to Purple. It’s a cohesive whole, unburdened by a strict narrative or sonic concept, at a relatively concise 46 minutes, and it does everything they’ve been trying to do since Yellow & Green.
4/5 Flaming Toilets ov Hell
Stone released today. Check it out on Bandcamp!