Album Review: Baroness Prove All That Glitters is Gold & Grey
It’s very much in-character for Baroness to leave their color wheel of albums frustratingly incomplete. They tend to defy their fans’ wants/needs/expectations — just ask any of the “their first two EPs are the best” brigade. So, instead of the garish “Orange,” we have the muted Gold & Grey, which sits uncomfortably in the slot the brightest color should otherwise occupy. Frontman (and sole remaining original member) John Baizley has said in interviews that he originally intended to title the album after the best citrus fruit, but the color never meant anything to him outside of traffic cones. This combination of hues evokes much more complex and nuanced emotions. That’s something Baroness are very familiar with.
Not technically a double album but still only 15 minutes shorter than previous two-fer Yellow & Green, Gold & Grey gives the listener a lot of material to unpack. It’s been about three and a half years since Purple left its wine-dark stain. They’ve had time to put together a diverse collection of songs. Nothing that feels uncharacteristic for the quartet, just a fuller exploration of the different shades of their sound. Their noise/sludge origins still echo faintly, but by now those have blended perfectly with the progressive and, yes, alt rock elements they’ve incorporated since.
Some of the tracks are clearly intros/interludes, something they’ve played with in the past but never to the extent they do here. Those experiments range from gentle piano themes (“Sevens”) to bursts of chaotic Krautrock (“Can Obscura,” which flaunts its influence in its name). They help flesh out the full pieces, giving the album more of a cinematic feel. Even if they aren’t essential on their own, they add to the larger tapestry — and as anyone who’s ever seen one of Baizley’s cover pieces can attest, he’s all about the details that make up the greater whole.
Of course, Baizley isn’t the only member of Baroness. Even if the rest of the musicians are mostly replacements that came in after the band’s devastating 2012 van accident (except for newcomer Gina Gleason, who replaced longtime member Pete Adams on lead guitar back in 2017), they certainly fit in well by now. First song “Front Toward Enemy” practically acts as a showcase for Nick Jost’s noise rock bass slams, and it’s a scorcher.
Even though they make a strong opening statement like that one, the bulk of the album focuses more on the band’s contemplative side. Songs like “Seasons” and “Throw Me an Anchor” betray their “rock out” tunes with thoughtful lyrics. “I’d Do Anything” and “Cold Blooded Angels” tap into Baizley’s emotional depths whole-heartedly. Although it’s impossible to say if this is their most personal record to date, at the very least it’s an unflinchingly honest snapshot of where they are now.
Baroness have come a long way since the days of titling their albums numerically. It’s fitting that the chromatic series that started with the blazing Red Album should close with a deep self-examination like this. Spontaneously melancholy and invigorating, Gold & Grey (the title and the album) perfectly encapsulates how Baroness excel at reaching shining peaks and descending into gloomy valleys.