It's becoming increasingly difficult to define bands with a genre label that does justice to their musical dignity and vision of the better ones. Baroness does mold its sound from the canvas of sludge metal but then toys with its precepts, the end result being something that's nearly unclassifiable. The Georgia-based band's contemporaries, Mastodon, broke into mainstream popularity using this brand of morphed "sludge metal." But, where Mastodon stays within metallic boundaries, Baroness steps far outside that box with no regards to commercial pliability. Blue Record comes off like a novel in sound and expresses an experience rather than just a collection of songs, a flair they must have picked up studying the grooves of symphonic prog-rock like Gentle Giant or Camel.
"The Sweetest Curse" is the only track hinged on common sludge characteristics. What follows is an entrance into the strange and unusual. John Baizley's and Peter Adams' guitars ring out down-tuned harmonies that constantly shift between modal motifs and snarly, catchy riffs. Vocally, Baizley contributes harmonies that come off like Beach Boys lines reworked by early Bauhaus, expertly layering voices that sound bouncy yet nearly ghastly. "O're Hell and Hide" features a thudding drum beat that's dancefloor-ready music atop blazing guitar runs. Or "The Gnashing," which could have been a cover of a mid-'70's Willie Nelson tune (think, Shotgun Willie or Phases and Stages). In short, Baroness turns in a bang-up job that reworks the structures of sludge metal, while delivering a record that's punchy, catchy and gets a kick out of itself while breathing radiantly with life.
Baroness plays Tuesday, Nov. 24, at the Magic Stick, 4120 Woodward Ave., Detroit; 313-833-7665.
Kent Alexander writes about music for Metro Times. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.