Baroness’ Purple Burns Like Milk and Gasoline

Not even catastrophe could stop Baroness‘ rock. A traumatic bus crash in 2012 saw the departure of two founding members and facilitated the band’s frontman, John Baizley, to reevaluate life. While almost four years ago, the crash looms just under the surface of the band’s latest album, Purple,–the first since the accident.

Purple stays consistent with the band’s previous releases while displaying an air  of maturity. Baroness seems to have come into their own–perfecting their unique brand of percussive, southern metal. I mean this both musically and visually. Baizley has designed the artwork for all of the band’s previous records, and they are all lovely. That said, the artwork for Purple feels more lush, more realized than the previous albums.

And this feel feeds into the music. The album starts with distant guitars and dissonant drums before diving into the distortion crunched rock Baroness doles out. “Morningstar” layers its complex rhythms and leads under Baizley’s brokenly beautiful voice. Lyrically, the song seems to be an elegy of sorts–an elegy that doesn’t forget hope. This concept seems to run through the entire album.

One doesn’t have to look far to see bits of imagery from crashes and catastrophes in Purple. They seem to peek around every lyrical corner. This constant looming bleeds into the album’s music as well. Even at their most ethereal, the guitars threaten to collapse into palm muted sludge. This tension between rising and falling gives Purple an urgency that is unprecedented.

And nowhere is this more apparent than the third track, “Try to Disappear.” The song weaves together beauty and devastation in a way that is neither subtle nor cloying. But beyond the conceptual, “Try to Disappear” is incredibly heavy without losing its hooks.

Somehow, throughout the album Baroness is able to come back to and reevaluate the same concept without feeling repetitive. This is in part due to how the instrumentals progress from their visceral beginnings to their more atmospheric gestures toward the end. In a way, Baroness has structured Purple to mimic trauma. At first, it’s fresh and immediate, but, as time passes, it becomes more abstract and fragmented.

This is not to say that the end of the album is less punchy than the first. This is to say by the end of the album, it seems as though the listener, and by proxy, the band will have come to understand trauma differently. The last full song shows this. “If I Have to Wake Up (Would You Stop The Rain)” focuses on the lingering effects of pain. The song is a tortured cry that abstracts physical suffering into its remembered effects.

Purple fits squarely into Baroness’ discography with its growled vocals and guitar-led songs. Simultaneously, the album steps into a more mature realm, one that definitely risks the personal, one that progresses not in a linear way but in a way that mimics reality more closely.

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