Album review: Baroness – Stone

Colour us shocked: Baroness remain one of the finest bands on the planet on incredible sixth album, Stone.

Album review: Baroness – Stone
Nick Ruskell

John Dyer Baizley talks about stone, the stuff, as part of the deeper inspiration behind Stone, the album. On walks with his dog over the past couple of years, surrounded by it in canyons and on cliffs, he began to consider stone – hard, long-hewn and standing to all intents and purposes forever, certainly longer than any of us – as much a metaphor for art as the colour wheel he and Baroness had previously employed in naming their albums and chapters. He could relate to the Greek figure Sisyphus and his big, eternal boulder when writing and searching for diamonds among the coal, just as the finished product an artist makes is there forever, in some way, a monument.

Stone also works as a handy symbol for Baroness themselves. They are immovable and seemingly permanent in their excellence. They are a totem to being A Good Band. To the point where, by now, six records in, it’s increasingly difficult to find new ways to sing their praises. Baroness have done it again, you say? No shit.

This is not a problem shared by the band. Despite the number of spines for songs stretching into three figures, getting that down to a dozen, and buffing out 10 that make it to Stone, it’s fluid, natural, articulate, even at its most clever and imaginative. As ever, you can hear the touch of Thin Lizzy in the leads, a comparison to Mastodon during the more feral bits, the shadow of Metallica’s Orion when they really get locked into a stomp, a comparison to Biffy in making angles so easy to swallow. But this is like looking at a massive house and commenting on what the bricks are made of. As obvious as it is to say, Baroness are completely singular in what they do.

So it is that first song proper, Last Word, is a mix of beefy riffs, an almost black metal moment, a gorgeous vocal duet, a massive, powerful chorus, a firework solo and guitar noises and stuff you never would’ve thought of that all slides effortlessly together as smoothly as a greased-up Roger Moore. On choir, a post-punk rhythm propels a guitar line that could have come from Bristol trip-hop geniuses Portishead, as John speaks in sinister fashion, like a sci-fi bad guy giving an address, while Shine feels like a whole song made of an ascendant chorus. On the eight-minute Magnolia they build constantly toward a dazzling finish, and closer Bloom strips everything back to acoustic guitar and vocals, but still feels as full as anything else here.

By now, it’s unnecessary to say Baroness are good, or that they’re clever, or have some reviewer screaming at you that they get into bits of music other rock bands either can’t get into or simply never think to try. You don’t need telling to get on Stone – a Baroness record is recommendation enough. But in the context here, with the stones and everything, it’s an entirely pleasing reminder that when they create something, it will stand for the ages.

Verdict: 5/5

For fans of: Thin Lizzy, Mastodon, Biffy Clyro

Stone is released on September 15 via Abraxan Hymns

Read this: Baroness: “Music can take our hurts and allow us to springboard back into the brightness, to enjoy life with all the more dimension and contrast”

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