Essential Listening: Download Festival Australia 2020 (Baroness)
Written by Luke Winchester
We’re a month out from Download Festival here in Australia and I know you’re all getting excited to see your favourite bands, but what about checking out a band that you don’t know? My biggest tip for bands to check it out is hands down Baroness. Having formed in 2003 by John Dyer Baizley in Savannah, Georgia, Baroness have carved a deep spot in the sludge/progressive metal world having released 5 albums of dreamy, driving and progressive sludgy rock. John Baizly is an absolute workhorse, he runs his own label that the band is on (Abraxan Hymns), does all of the artwork for his own band (and sometimes lends his talents to bands like Torche, Kverletak, Pig Destroyer and even Metallica) he also produces and engineers the bands albums in his home studio, a man with a vision is John and his vision is beautiful. Baroness are a musical hydra, multiple heads, hard to kill and scarily beautiful. There are few bands out there that wear everything on their sleeves as transparently as Baroness, exhilarating highs, crushing lows and beautiful euphoric middles. So, you’ve never heard them before? That’s alright, we here at Insert Review Here have got your back with the 10(ish) essential tracks to look out for while they’re here in Australia. If you have had the pleasure of seeing/hearing Baroness please let us know if we missed anything and remember, this is all just a bit of fun, don’t take it too seriously. But if you are to take it seriously, heed my words, if you haven’t spent much time with Baroness and you’re a fan of modern Mastodon, as Molly Meldrum would say, do yourself a favour.
ISAK (Red Album)
So, let’s start from the beginning, Baroness’ first album “Red Album” came out in 2007 and much like their Georgian friends Mastodon and Kylesa they were well and truly on the sludge train, emulating their heroes in Neurosis, Earth and Melvins. Huge, fuzzy guitars met with driving, pulsating drums and emotionally charged vocals. Still a staple in the Baroness live repertoire and for good reason.
Front Toward Enemy (Gold and Grey)
This is riff city for Baroness, a barrage of bass tone rolling straight out of the speakers going straight for your soul, hypnotically dancing around awaiting for John’s voice to come in with a huge vocal hook that aims for your heart. Now that your heart and soul taken care, next is your head, don’t worry, you’re in good hands, the swirling, propulsive riffs that come together with ethereal vocals from both John and Gina Gleeson (Guitars/Vocals) at around the 2 and half minute mark are here to take you home. I think that they’re just showing off.
Shock Me (Purple)
This song has a very special place in my heart and if I wasn’t thinking straight it could easily be number 1. This is the first Baroness song that really caught me by the throat and it all comes down to John’s voice, dripping with passion and vulnerability and that chorus, seriously, goosebumps. Just shut up and listen
A Horse Called Golgotha (Blue Record)
This is a more aggressively edged side of Baroness, the band less leaning on the ethereal building and swaying of song structures and more about trudging into the heavier rock side of their material. The overdriven, trippy, bluesy guitar solo in the middle of the track is jarring and mesmerizing, and that cascading outro, my god this band is incredible and this track is a true stand out from their Blue Record.
Take My Bones Away (Yellow & Green)
This little progressive rock jaunt is much more of a direct rock track than most of Baroness’ catalogue. Building on an infectious vocal hook and forceful bass and drums pushing through rumbling, fuzzy guitars, it’s clear that this track is an outlet of frustration for John and co with lyrics like “What was the plan here? I can't seem to stop! Pissing and spitting from bottom to top, picking up viscera, tendons and broken remains” Gnarly, dude.
This is Baroness at their heaviest. Muscular and angular guitars wash over pummeling drums and bass that fill every sense with elation. With one of the biggest choruses they have on offer, this track is bound to make you fall head over heels for the Georgian four piece. If you haven’t already.
Borderlines (Gold & Grey)
This was one of the first offerings from last year's amazing Gold and Grey, showcasing Gina Gleeson’s vocal prowess against John’s powerful drawl. This song builds and swells multiple times, circling the drain for countless spirals until hitting a crescendo of overdriven guitars and emotionally impassioned vocals. The bass outro by itself is a trip, just close your eyes and enjoy the ride.
Chlorine and Wine (Purple)
The thing about the Purple album is it is my personal favourite so it was difficult to not just say go listen to that album and get back to me when you’re in love with this band (which to be honest will be after one listen) songs like Chlorine and Wine are so drenched in emotive vocals, punchy drums and swelling guitars, the whole album is truly a masterpiece.
If I Have To Wake Up ( Would You Stop The Rain)
Alright, I know that I’ve already gushed over my love for Purple but spend some time, grab a drink and cozy up to this positively epic exploration of human emotion, there is no faking this kind of art, it oozes from their very pores. Seriously, if you’re in Sydney for Download and you see me in the crowd you will see one of two things, a gentle giant weeping uncontrollably or a mammoth gentleman screaming the lyrics completely out of key. Probably both.
Green Theme (Yellow & Green)
Holy dooley! I might have gotten shot for not putting this at number one, this is the track that brought a lot of people into the Baroness fandom (it was included in an episode of the TV adaptation of Limitless and people loved it), an enchanting, anthemic and uplifting track that seems to hit every single epic note you could ever want to hear. One of their only fully instrumental tracks, Green Theme has everything it needs in itself, the melody is magical and makes hairs stand up and bumps goose. This is beauty, This is Baroness.
Tourniquet (Gold & Grey)
I know, I’m a fucking cheat but wrap your ear canals around this one and thank me later, Tourniquet, also pulled from last years amazing Gold & Grey is an ethereal swamp of magical passages all leading to the same place, rapturous delight. Look, this might come off as a little weird but I think this is Baroness’ attempt at writing a Beach Boys song through the lens of Sludgy glasses. I don’t know, maybe I’m just crazy.
Catch Baroness live at Download Festival Melbourne & Sydney. Tickets available here: https://www.downloadfestival.com.au/