The second full-length release by Savannah everything-metal quartet Baroness is a lot like the artwork that graces its cover. It was painstakingly created, it is unparalleled in beauty, and you're bound to notice new things each time you sit down with it.
After guitarist Brian Blickle famously departed to be replaced by Pete Adams, questions hung in the air about whether the band was capable of another record as strong as 2007's Red Album. The sonic result achieved on Blue Record should put those questions to bed. This could be the band's masterpiece.
The effect that the new album has isn't as immediate as that of past records by the group. There's no riff like the attention-demanding intro to "The Birthing", nor is there a two-minute pure metal attack like "O' Appalachia". Instead, Blue Record is the sound of evolution, progression, and a band coming into their own.
Everything that was great about the band's earlier music has been amplified and carefully balanced on the new album. The riffs aren't as immediate, as I mentioned, but they're better. Frontman John Dyer Baizley has finally come into his own as a vocalist, his honey-sweet shouting draped elegantly over complex chord progressions and cymbal patterns that are an anomaly in music this heavy and groovy. Baizley and Adams almost sound like they could become full-fledged guitar heroes, too, with the Mastodon-esque leads in songs like "War, Wisdom and Rhyme" and "Jake Leg". Even the pure beauty has been turned way up. Interludes "Steel That Sleeps the Eye" and "Blackpowder Orchard" make great use of acoustic guitar and provide perfect complements to the heavier tracks.
Perhaps the most significant thing about this album is the fact that there are now songs that sound like Baroness songs. Even in their finest hours prior to this record, it was easy to point out which parts of songs were Mastodon parts, which parts were Kylesa parts, which parts were Melvins parts, and so on. But the instant classics on Blue Record like "A Horse Called Golgotha" and "The Gnashing" sound like Baroness songs, plain and simple. The band is in its own category now, and it's only a matter of time before reviews of young upstarts start to feature the phrase "Baroness worship".
This can only be seen as a good thing for the band, and by the time the inevitable Green LP and Yellow Full-Length are released, I wouldn't be surprised if they're regarded as one of the finest bands in modern metal.