Here it is, the Baroness album that almost never was. It seems impossible to write about Baroness' return without referencing their 2012 tour bus crash. The injuries sustained were severe enough to force half the band to give up the touring life. They're probably sick of people talking about it, but when the rejigged line-up comes back with an album this assured and uplifting, it demands consideration.
Dave Fridmann's warm production has rounded-off the harder edges of the band's earlier sound, but conversely there's little of the quiet introspective strumming that made up so much of 2012's 'Yellow & Green' double album. This is a much more energetic affair. Yes, the guitars snarl rather than scream, and John Baizley's voice is more nuanced – but the songs are the most focused and compelling Baroness have penned.
Layers of piano just crest the huge rolling wave of 'Shock Me', a tune so good it will stay in your head for days. 'Kerosene' sees the new rhythm section of Nick Jost and Sebastian Thompson leading the charge. Guitars dance around, building up and up until you're thrust headfirst into chorus that expertly balances vulnerability with driving power.
The lyrics to epic centrepiece 'Chlorine & Wine' are rife with images of the helplessness felt while recovering from injury – and how reliant you become on the people surrounding you. By the time it comes to a close it contorts all the insecurity into an exultant roar of backing vocals and massive guitars.
There's a reason that 'Purple' is already appearing on tons of end-of-year lists before it's even been released – it's just that good. It's the soundtrack to triumph over adversity. Every Baroness album before this has featured huge shifts in style, this being the one where they take the best of each to create a propulsive, thrilling whole.
Words: James Barry
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