Unlike most bands sixteen years deep into their career, Baroness have never been afraid of change. From record to record, it’s nearly impossible to know what you’re going to get out of the lauded Georgia metal outfit, but one thing’s for certain: they certainly won’t disappoint. Heavy enough for the rabid metalheads and avant-garde enough for the hipsters, it would appear that Baroness could do no wrong. Regardless of what genre label is being fastened to them at any given moment, they are simply one of rock’s most ambitious acts, with a remarkable track record of following through on their lofty artistic promises. And Gold & Grey, the band’s fifth color-coded release, is no exception. Representing a myriad of the facets that make up the band’s ever-expanding persona, the latest studio album from Baroness is their most elaborate (and also their weirdest) output to date.
Even more so than previous concept pieces like 2009’s landmark Blue Album, Gold & Grey is distinctly aware of its structure as a single, cohesive unit. Calling back to a long line of narrative-bound rock albums, a single flow is achieved as instrumental phrases are repeated, songs bleed into one another, and multiple conjoining thematic throughlines as fleshed out from start to finish. Feeling more like Led Zeppelin or Rush than they do nearly anything coming out of the world of contemporary metal, Baroness have crafted a sprawling mosaic art project in the form of an album, meant to be celebrated as an insular body of work.
But that’s not to say that there’s an aesthetic uniformity to these tracks. On the contrary, Baroness continue to expand their unclassifiable sound throughout Gold & Grey, painting with an exceptionally eclectic reach in order to fully cement the emotional diversity of their sonic landscape. The album boasts so much variety, and yet it all sounds unmistakably like Baroness, ranging from sludge metal (shock to the system “Front Toward Enemy”) to prog rock (vulnerable, subdued “Tourniquet”), with plenty of melodic palate cleansers filling in the spaces in between, like subtle, transient “Sevens,” drifting, fireside ballad “Emmet: Radiating Light,” and experimental, otherworldly “Crooked Mile.” Often, aesthetics converge on a single track, as when spastic percussion is commandeered for an emotive release on “Seasons.”
Although its color label is less flashy than other Baroness releases such as Purple and Yellow & Green, Gold & Grey is bursting at the seams with energy. You don’t have to look far to find hard-hitting rippers like exploratory, arena-ready “I’m Already Gone” or electro-fused, crackling “Throw Me an Anchor.” As it moves through emotional extremes, it is dripping with anger. Tracks like enraged, overwhelming “I’d Do Anything” and strained, boiling “Cold: Blooded Angels” find the band speeding out of control. By the time they get to “Pale Sun,” frontman John Baizley and co. can barely keep it together.
Clocking in at just over an hour, Gold & Grey can feel a bit daunting as it churns through its lengthy, expansive tracks. However, just when an idea begins to overstay its welcome, Baroness move on to another. They’ve been constructing tight albums for so long now that they know precisely when to tamp down the edges, as well as precisely when to nurture and develop a song to its full potential. Gold & Grey has something for everyone, beautifully capturing all of the varied reasons to admire Baroness.