For a band that’s been through some serious trials, tribulations and near-tragedies, Baroness sounds nothing less than triumphant on new track “Shock Me.” In summer of 2012, Baroness was poised for a breakthrough with the release of their album Yellow and Green, a two-LP collection of songs that found them expanding beyond the boundaries of metal and fully embracing subtler, more melodic sounds spanning from psychedelia to dream pop and post-hardcore. Not long after its release, however, the band endured a horrific bus crash that not only forced them to cancel their remaining tour dates, but came perilously close to ending the band altogether. In some ways, it did change the band; drummer Allen Blickle and bassist Matt Maggioni left the band after sustaining fractured vertebrae, and Sebastian Thomson and Nick Jost stepped into their respective roles. But the accident—which left John Baizley temporarily unable to play guitar, and almost cost him his arm altogether—didn’t end the band. Instead, it reaffirmed their sense of drive and purpose, which was all the more heartening to see when the quartet ended up back on stage one year later.
“Shock Me” features the same lineup as that of the band’s first post-accident tour, and though the names might be different than some of those on previous Baroness records (of which only two to date feature an identical lineup of musicians), the spirit and the soul of the band is clearly intact. It’s a powerful and moving song, guided by a greater keyboard presence—no doubt aided by Dave Fridmann’s production—and a stronger commitment than ever to melodic clarity. Riffs have always been the band’s stock in trade, like any great heavy band, but they’ve embraced melody with open arms. Not that “Shock Me” doesn’t rock, and hard at that. Baroness will never not be a heavy band, but here it’s the heart that’s the more important muscle, Baizley singing, “Shock me/ I needed a surprise,” as if to echo the darkness and pain that sometimes puts things into greater perspective. It’s hard not to hear “Shock Me” without the band’s darker times in mind, yet that’s also what makes the song as powerful a statement as it is.[from Purple, out December 18; Abraxan Hymns]
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.