It was “Abraxan Hymns“ all along. And all over again. Again all overwhelming, this time also at second glance. Baroness reclaim a throne they built for themselves by not lurking in the shadows behind it like some characters in Game of Thrones but rather by sprinting in its direction, ramming everyone in their wake from it and then slowly and gracefully descending onto it with a big smile saying “We never left, you just didn’t see us!”
Whoever wavered in his appraisal of the formerly Savannah, now Philadelphia quartet might have to reconsider his lack of enthusiasm for the group revolving around guitar heroine meets hero-duo Gina Gleason and John Dyer Baizley. Since Gina joined the group there has been a constant re-forming and re-evaluating of their sound and the vision they have for the releases of the band. I do not want to say that the albums they churned out before have been bad, no, they weren’t bad at all, but with this one it feels as if this latest definition of the Baroness-sound is much more diverse and appealing and still deep and differentiated than before.
To proclaim one thing clearly: If you are looking for that certain kind of “Southern metal” that you heard on the Red Album you might have to listen very closely, because these elements are not very obvious at first, albeit they’re there. Now many of you will say “But just listen to these mighty Southern interludes and intros like ”Embers” or ”The Dirge”!!!” - and in parts you are completely right, these tracks carry a certain Southern heritage on their sleeves and they are awesome in so many ways, but you will also find some other parts that might remind you of their roots in Georgia. There are some very nice tidbits and tinges – especially in the vocals – for example in ”Magnolia” (that title itself being a trademark of everything Southern)! In the same title you will also hear some bluesy, twangy guitar lines. Wonderful! And when the track goes on, the people who loved ”Isak” should also find lines they can love here. Admittedly, John’s vocals are now a bit less coarse, yet their still not poppy as the Post-Punk influence might push him a bit more towards Killing Joke but he’s not a Jaz Coleman, he’s more one of the Patterson brothers, Evan and Ryan and their great projects Fotocrime and Jaye Jayle. This certain love has always been present in their work, already with ”Steel that Sleeps the Eye” back on their second full-length. That song, from which they took the name for their own label Abraxan Hymns is a kind of role-model for John’s vocals somewhere between Post-Punk and Swamp Preacher.
On the other hand, the band also displays something that they have already shown way back in 2010 with the b-side of their single A Horse Called Golgotha from their Blue Record: A certain love for punk and the faster sides of life – as they covered ”Bikeage” by none other than the almighty Descendents. And now they show that again, for example with the opening, fast-paced part of ”Last Word” which has a classic Heavy Metal solo to die for.
With this record the band really pushes themselves onto a new level of musicianship and encrypt their love for very different musical styles into the very core of their soundscape and still retain that very Baroness-sound. The duel vocals are rivaled by the dual-threat guitars which sometimes seem to wanna battle it out and at other times charm each other as seductively as a Georgia peach might have seduced Adam and Eve back in the Garden of Eden. The record is powerful and not surprisingly a real asset not only for people who want to discover them now but also for people who want to re-discover the band. The latter is one of the biggest compliments one might make – that a band is still able to connect to their earlier work and yet surprise people. Stone is the first “non-color-record” in Baroness’ history but it surely has its roots in all of those!