Progressive metal behemoths Mastodon appearing at Reading & Leeds was something that I had predicted for a while, given their ever-growing mainstream success. Them having a stage to themselves, underpinning the bloated, uninspired Radio 1-core plebfest of Metallica, Bring Me The Horizon and Royal Blood (playing for the second year in a row with no new releases, may I add) seemed to make sense. However, take Mastodon out of the equation (which alas, they did), and suddenly Baroness‘s place in the line-up is suddenly a little confusing. It’s hard to imagine anyone walking around Leeds festival last year thinking “you know who should really be here? Baroness.” Unlike many similar bands, Baroness still remain far more rooted in the metal community than they are in the mainstream rock world of Royal Blood et al. With their long-awaited Purple album around the corner, I felt like this was a suiting time to re-visit the group’s last effort, the controversial, surprising, and apparently Reading & Leeds suitable Yellow & Green.
Much like their Georgian brethren Mastodon, Baroness have undergone a large shift in style in recent years, evolving from their progressive sludge metal roots to a more accessible rock style. Yellow & Green is a double album, offering two almost separate records that together show many different sides of the band, from quiet, drifting songs that embrace folk as much as they do rock such as ‘Twinkler’ to impassioned, hard-hitting sludge-pop anthems like ‘Take My Bones Away’.
The two halves can’t really be viewed as one album, or two separate entities. Instead, Yellow & Green manages to somehow create the feel of a classic double album, like Physical Graffiti, or Lift Yr. Skinny Fists Like Antennas To Heaven that few rock bands of this age have. Where the album fails, however, is by not making better use of this format. Yellow is a beautifully constructed, moving, well written record with a magnificent feeling of consistency and theme to it, as if every song is coming from the same place and telling one cohesive story despite exploring so much sonic space and never sounding repetitive. On the other hand Green, it’s glorious opening theme and ‘Board Up the House’ aside, sounds like a collection of off-cuts from the first part of the album. Most of the songs are subdued and quiet, but they all seem to lack the spark and vigor that makes Yellow so compelling.
Yellow & Green can be a confusing and in places boring album, mainly in it’s second half. With a tracklist consisting of eighteen songs, it is perhaps a little too long considering the amount of strong cuts on it – but after it’s finished, those strong cuts will keep you coming back, where the weaker ones will simply fade into the background. Is it Physical Graffiti? Not by a long way, but it’ll nonetheless take you on a journey to places few rock albums in recent times have imagined quite so vividly.
Words by Joe Gilbertson