I received a few pieces of great advice which stuck with me through my younger, wilder days performing pay-to-play gigs in Hollywood and sleeping in dingy motels where pimps named “D” would regale me with stories of Los Angeles beat-downs. One came from singer Serj Tankian of System of a Down who, during Snot’s label signing party, said “If the women can shake their ass to it you can make it.” The other, from a gentleman whose name escapes me was that “it’s all about transition.” The latter stuck with me more than the former, although any act looking to cut their teeth in the business of making money would be wise to pay closer attention to the former.
It’s all about transition. This is basis of modern music, from its early Judeo-Christian origins in gregorian chant as a means of spiritualism to the classical period where artists like Beethoven began to embrace the wild, sometimes violent turbulence in which a composition could move from point A to point B. Music can take you places. It tells a story in the most abstract sense of the term, conveying different imagery to different people but creating an almost universal landscape where one series of notes executed in perfect order at the precise moment can give an audience collective goosebumps. And this is what I like about Baroness. They don’t play music; they compose it as a motion, an execution of transitions. And it evades you as the listener.
And though this all may seem like I’m rattling off artistic bullshit I challenge you to answer this question. What is it about a certain song that might cause you to skip backwards midway through and listen to a portion again? In popular music this would seem unnecessary; you know what happens next because the structure of most pop songs is verse-chorus-verse. There’s no need to go back and listen to something you just enjoyed, wait 16 bars and you’ll hear it again. But the great songs, the ones that move fluently throughout different pieces of their structure? Once you’ve heard it it’s escaped you. And this is the strength of Baroness. There are at least five different portions of this new record which I have gone back and repeated because I loved them so much. Two of which were on the first full track alone.
The group tries some interesting things on this record. The kind of instrumental atmospheric sludge-doom we’re accustomed to remains, but layered with more complicated accompaniment of staccato harmonies and long-sustained electric “twanger” reminiscent of Iron Maiden. The melodic, sometimes peaceful interludes give the album a richer, more mature feel, and anchor it in a kind of exotic musical poetry that makes it seem all the more epic. As far as rock albums go, this is rock-fucking-solid. This group is absolutely on the top of their game, and the way in which the record develops throughout doesn’t come across as repetitious or even boring, which is an incredible feat considering how often metal albums fall into this trap. Oddly enough, this is an album you could use to pump yourself up for a fight or to listen to while trying to fall asleep. It’s absolutely hypnotic, which is why I think so many of us enjoyed the “Red Album” so much. It’s more musical score than it is a series of tracks. And there may even be just a hint of old Alice in Chains in there for those late nights where you find yourself wishing you could escape to the transient moments of the Seattle movement.
I’ve listened to this record 12 times on Myspace and thrice since purchasing it this evening on iTunes. If there’s a better selection to top my annual 10 I haven’t heard it. While some of you who know me may be scratching your heads over how a sad, Dylan-loving bastard such as myself can fall so hard over a metal record, you really need to give this a good listen and let it grow on you. This is NOT some dopey-headed bong rock. This, in my opinion, is about as high art as rock music can get. I highly recommend this and the “Red Album” as well. You can listen to both here.
[Undoubtedly, the hooligans and I will be seeing them December 3rd at the Troubador in Hollywood. If anybody wants to meet up that night and grab a beer email me]