It’s hard to think of any good coming from Georgia at the moment, given its current human rights crisis. But it did, via Virginia, give rise to Baroness. And that we can be thankful for as they bring their fifth studio album to fruition.
In a way, the album is perfectly timed: their prog-lite is the antidote to everything that’s crap in the world right now. But the band has also been through – to put it eloquently – some serious shit over the last seven years. A near-fatal bus crash in 2012, when their bus fell from a viaduct in Bath, resulted in serious injuries. The incident was jarring enough to prompt two members to leave the group, with another one to follow some time later. But this record – just a few years on from ‘Purple’ – has a totally different frequency. It’s super-tight, slick and takes sonic soundscapes to the next level entirely; it sounds like time has healed old wounds.
‘Seasons’ is everything you want; frenetic and unrelenting, laced with searing melodies as vocalist, guitarist and founder John Baizley’s vocals (along with new guitarist Gina Gleeson’s vocal harmonies) soar. Lines such as “We bend / We break / We burn but we survive” are poignant, given their history (Baizley’s arm was nearly amputated post-accident and he’s documented mental health struggles too). ‘Throw Me An Anchor’ is another seismic journey through sound – the kind Kylesa, Mastodon and Pelican take you on – while ‘Emmet Radiating Light’ is a masterpiece of curious melodies; acoustic guitar creeps up on you like a dark cloud about to rain down shards of glass, unnerving and beautiful at the same time.
But there are considerations: namely that a 17-track album, coming at a time when our attention spans are shorter than ever before – and listening to albums start to finish isn’t the norm – could be seen as being stubbornly tethered to the past. But the instrumental interludes and slower tracks such as ‘Torniquet’ and ‘Cool Blooded Angels’ do give the engorged, larger tracks space to expand and breathe.
To say this album is epic would be an understatement; it’s a work of art in the truest sense.