Baroness had some serious momentum going with their Blue Record in 2009, so it was logical that the metal nerd community was chattering wildly about the double-album Yellow & Green prior to its debut. Yeah, there were all sorts of zany speculations and remarks on how the preview tracks weren't as metal as the band's previous works, but any rational human being who enjoyed Baroness's material could safely assume the latest and greatest wasn't going to end up as complete horseshit. So, just how far from horse-ploppy is Yellow & Green?
It didn't take long into my first listen to concur that this was their most pop-sounding work to date. The trademark fiery howling that sounded like bears (both the hibernate-y and nipple pierce-y kinds) going to war has, for the most part, been replaced with straight-up singing. Not to say that the use of clean vocals is necessarily a negative, but I'm of the opinion that they aren't necessarily a strong point when it comes to this flavor of music. With this being said, if Baizley and company were to continue down this path, then I'm confident they'll have hit their stride by the next release.
While on this topic of vocal styling, I had a brief exchange with some hairy, fat guy at a show a little while back about the record. His statement of "yeah, but it really kills me how that one song sounds almost like fucking Nickelback, man" struck a chord with me. The dude had a valid point. By stripping the majority of intensity and harshness from a band like this pretty much leaves you with a radio-friendly, "hard rock" (christ do I ever detest that term) kinda vibe. From there, it takes a lot of talent and songwriting ability to make the final product more outstanding than a greasy colonic-byproduct such as N-back. Baroness has no shortcomings in said departments and thus, thankfully, the result isn't particularly fecal.
Personally, I was incredibly hyped for this album and while it didn't completely blow away my initially astronomical expectations, it is still a GOOD record by a GOOD band. It has more than its fair share of "Fuck yeah, I'm gonna drink some warm whiskey and walk around in waist-deep snow with a sword on my side. Wait, but not like I'm playing Dungeons & Dragons or nuthin, but..." moments. The hooks in songs such as "Take My Bones Away" don't waste much time when it comes to getting stuck in your head after the first listen or two.
Like many important acquired tastes in life (see: brussels sprouts, purple drank, Robert Mapplethorpe), this record very well could take some time to really grow on me. It is easy to keep oneself in a comfortable state of consistency, but I'm of the firm opinion that a proper artist should be able to confidently venture in new directions (a double-album with a new sound indeed takes some balls). Plus, let's not forget that this is technically two albums for the price of one. I'm quite thankful that they didn't pull a scumbag Guns 'n Roses and make you shell out your hard-earned drug money for each disc individually.