Adversity and tragedy have long made for inspired creative output. Significant life changes often lead to a renewed enthusiasm and energy as well. In the case of Georgia’s Baroness, it became the aftermath of a near fatal bus accident in 2012 which sparked the flame for what may be the band’s best album to date, and certainly of this decade. Purple marks the first album since the accident that caused two members to step down from their roles in the band, including founding member, drummer Allan Blickle.
After a brief period of introspection, co-founder and frontman, John Baizley, along with longtime guitarist, Peter Adams, began the process of putting the pieces back together again. This included the additions of bassist/keyboardist, Nick Jost, and drummer, Sebastian Thomson. Purple marks the recording debut of both members.
While one might expect Purple to be an album predicated on a dreary emotive backdrop seeped in melancholy angst, quite the opposite is true. While there is no lack of emotional depth on Purple, Baroness is aggressive and driving; an angry reminder of the band’s unbroken spirit, determination, and resilience.
The band opened new doors by tapping Dave Fridmann (Sleater-Kinney, Flaming Lips, Weezer) to produce, and recording at Tarbox Road Studios in Cassadaga, New York. His polished touch adds a visceral and somewhat psychedelic patina. The overall feel of Purple is more focused and intense than the expansive and experimental nature of the their previous Yellow & Green album.
The album opens in a flail of drums before a tilted chugging riff leads the listener into “Morning Star”, a meaty rush of adrenaline to push off the record. This is followed by the synth-infused and melodically eloquent, “Shock Me”, one of the album’s advance singles, and a wake-up call for the complacency we’re all capable of succumbing to. The song’s break down is a free-for-all melange of sonic frenzy.
“Try to Disappear” dances with linear and textured exposition, while “Kerosene” ignites into a driving melee of crunchy guitars and gritty vocals. Baizley’s voice finds just the right moments to soar amidst the instrumental chaos. “Fugue” offers an ambient bridge to the epic single, “Chlorine & Wine”, a song beautifully lush yet vitally hungry in its deliverance. The Brian May-stylized guitar work adds a mesmerizing quality to the dramatic feel of the track.
“The Iron Bell” thrums with a vital sense of purpose, driving relentlessly forward with reckless fervor and bombastic attitude. This plays nicely off the grungy nuances of “Desperation Burns”, which gives a slight nod to the Stone Temple Pilots. Baizley’s throaty performance adds a sense of desolation, and Thomson’s stick work combines with Jost’s low-end rumble to make this the most muscular track on the record.
The album closes out with the solemn and poignant ballad, “If I Have to Wake Up (Would You Stop the Rain)”. The song’s undercurrent pulses throughout while building with a pensive yet ethereal atmosphere. This is among the best Pink Floyd songs not penned by Pink Floyd.
With Purple, Baroness returns equally passionate and rejuvenated, turning tribulation into triumph. Baizley and Adams are at their stellar best, and Thomson and Jost make a rousing first impression. Purple is majestic and elegant, steeped in bold chaos and melodic nuance: Baroness has delivered an emphatic aural rejoinder to adversity.