Once categorized as a sludge-metal or prog-metal outfit, Georgia’s Baroness has been gradually shedding its gnarlier skin with each successive release, most recently adding touches of dreamy psychedelia and post-hardcore to its 2009 breakout, Blue Record. But on Yellow & Green, the group’s expansive, indulgent behemoth of a third album, Baroness has more or less abandoned “metal” in all its various forms, stewing in the sort of artful, epic emo favored by bands like Thrice and Dredg.
It’s a bold move: Over the past few years, Baroness has opened for heavier-than-heavy bands like Opeth, Mastodon, and Meshuggah. And while it’s hard to imagine Yellow & Green capturing the imaginations of that same audience, it’s also painfully clear that Baroness is now in a more adventurous headspace—one that’s at turns mesmerizing and dull.
At 18 tracks and 75 total minutes, the double-disc Yellow & Green is almost inevitably bloated. There’s little distinguishable difference between the two color-coded sides in either theme or musical trajectory (save for a little more spacey guitar ambience on the Green disc), so there’s no reason the album couldn’t have been condensed into a tighter and more focused effort. Eventually the brooding, Gregorian-chant harmonies and webs of effects-pedal wizardry blend together into zonked-out drones. Meanwhile, producer John Congleton’s mix buries much of the group’s ethereal beauty in fuzz.
Regardless, Yellow & Green is crammed with highlights. “Eula” is an undeniable opus, opening in a simmering sea of acoustic strums and electric echo before exploding into a throat-punching chorus: “I can’t forget the taste,” John Baizley spews over Allen Blickle’s atomic drum fills, “I can’t forget the taste of my own tongue.” The surging “March To The Sea” is built on an avalanche of tom-toms and Baizley’s howls, peaking with a wicked, harmonized laser-beam guitar solo. And on “Board Up The House,” Baroness approaches full-blown arena-rock, with Southern-fried guitar fills and a massively hummable chorus. There’s an abundance of good ideas here, all of them fearlessly pursued. Next time, the band just needs to hire an editor.