Baroness - Purple (Abraxan Hymns) 2015
Though previous circumstances may dampen the celebrations somewhat, Purple is arguably the introduction of Baroness mk.II.
With a move from Relapse to their own Abraxan Hymns label, the addition of a new rhythm section in bassist Nick Joss and ex-Trans Am drummer Sebastian Thomson following the amicable departure of Matt Maggioni and Allen Bickle and the recruitment of Dave Fridmann (Sleater-Kinney) on production duties, there are plenty of shifts behind the scenes at work in Purple, but for all that things have changed, this sounds exactly how a Baroness album should. It rocks, it rolls, it rumbles and it delivers hook after hook after hook, appropriately coming off as a combination of Red’s muscular sludge and Blue’s leaner, more up-tempo songwriting.
The visceral punch of opener “Morningstar” brings the more aggressive side of the band to the fore at an early juncture, a bold statement of intent that shows off the band’s renewed strength and enthusiasm while laying the groundwork for the hope and pain that serves as the album’s lyrical focal point, most notably on lead single “Chlorine & Wine”. “She cuts through my ribcage and pushes the pills deep in my eyes,” John Baizley bellows candidly before the mood gently swings upwards with “in spite of the winter there’s ways to keep warm” and an anthemic gang-vocal chorus leaves a warm fuzziness in place of the despair. “The Iron Bell” brings an upbeat return to their punk roots, but lest an impression that it’s all old news be given, it’s the smooth insertion of Yellow & Green’s now-perfected melodicism into Baroness’ taut backbone that really defines Purple as a progression for the band; there are few moments that don’t merit repeated listens and mid-shower singalongs, but it eschews the simplicity of heavy-verse-catchy-chorus tropes for a shifting of weight through out the album.
The loudest, most straight-up metal passages often prove the most accessible, and though the sprawl of the album’s predecessor has been heavily curtailed, it offers a structural and emotional complexity that leaves it ripe for reinterpretation and self-projection; even as they boil down on a distinctly earnest note, they refrain from maudlin gloom and over-literal sentimentality by backing it with some of the album’s most progressive composition.
This may be a new phase for Baroness, but on the strength of Purple they’ve set out on the strongest possible foot.