Album Review: Baroness – “Purple”

Baroness - Purple - John BaizleyLong-time underground metal favorites Baroness have come forth with a long-awaited comeback record, Purple. After the devastating bus accident the band suffered in late 2012, no one was sure if we would ever again be graced with new Baroness. John Baizley and company have not merely survived the tragedy, but they have fought their way back to their craft with purpose, resolve, and strength.

Baroness has never been afraid to take chances and evolve as musicians. Some fans of their earlier records like First and Second or  even Red and Blue seem to have felt cheated by Baroness’ previous release Yellow and Green, the double album from 2012. It took me months to shake my disappointment in the band’s musical exploration on Yellow and Green to get to a point where I appreciated their growth and need to challenge themselves. I was worried that I would feel the same way with Purple and that it would take significant time to grow on me. I am pleased to say that I could not have been more wrong.

Just the fact that Baroness were able to even pick up their instruments after such a horrific accident is a testament to the passion they have for their art. The fact that they were able to come back with such fervor and skill makes the case that their passion for music played a monumental role in their recovery as people and musicians. Purple seems to have allowed them to reclaim joy in their lives and their position as one of the most loved and respected metal acts in the world.

They have come back with renewed vigor and a more direct approach than that what was found on Yellow and Green. The more focused sound finds that they do indeed tread into the more varied and interesting songwriting from the previous double album but also has the strength and focus present in much of Red and Blue that demand the listener to bang their head along to the riffage. “Morningstar” and “Try to Disappear” present some great head bang moments but in a way that feels more fun than aggressive.

A lot of the instrumentation and songwriting feels similar to the places that Baroness has gone before on their previous releases. There is a noted difference of additional instrumentation that works to further flesh out the feel of the album. Banjo, violin, synth all work to enhance “Purple” in making the music fuller and more interesting without being distracting. As a drummer, I really need to call out newcomer Sebastian Thomson on this record. While I have always loved Baroness as a whole package, Sebastian’s drumming is allowed to really shine through with some great moments. He treats the drums not simply for rhythm purposes, but carries them to the forefront as a standalone instrument. I wasn’t sure if I would notice a difference with these new members, but the drumming throughout the duration of Purple is absolutely superb.

Purple feels like a return to form for Baroness. Not so much that it is Red 2.0 or Yellow and Green: Electric Boogaloo but that Baroness has returned to making exquisite songs that are not afraid to take chances and make the best of them.  The most noticeable difference is that from start to finish Purple feels like a celebration. This record is truly a celebration of life and love, music and art. Each and every track seems to explode with such joy and excitement. This is not to take away from the pain that they have endured; you can feel that there is a darkness present. However, rather than fixating on that darkness and brooding over hardships, Baroness have crafted 10 tracks of victory. They lived through the darkness and passed through the void, but they have emerged on the other side stronger and happier than ever.

From listening to Purple, it is evident that they have grown so much through their experiences, and this new record is an invitation for us to grow, find that joy and celebrate with them. It has been an immense pleasure following the career of this fantastic band. They have traveled much from their initial swampy sound, but Baroness has not forgotten where they came from. Rather, they have taken those experiences and forged something fresh and new.

– Josh Thieler

Purple is out now on Abraxan Hymns. For more information on Baroness, visit the band’s official website.


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