Every Baroness album ranked from worst to best

Baroness, 2023 press photo
(Image credit: Ebru Yildiz)

Much like in that episode of The Simpsons where Lisa dates school bully Nelson, Baroness have taken the seemingly ugly face of sludge metal and exposed a tenderness in its heart. The Savannah beloveds, ever-led by singer/guitarist John Dyer Baizley, are loyal to their genre’s hard-nosed riffs, yet they also smooth them with silken, textured melodies.

It’s an interplay that refuses to be boring: the band are now 20 years in, boasting a Grammy nomination, the approval of Metallica and, most importantly, not a single duff release as a result of their innovative graft. But what’s the best of the spectrum? Here are Baroness’s six technicolour albums, ranked in order of magnificence.

Metal Hammer line break

6. Red Album (2007)

It’s worth reiterating, there’s no such thing as a bad Baroness album; it’s just that their debut was made by a band still in creative utero. Baroness were outgrowing the smoggy sludge of their First and Second EPs at a drastic rate by 2007, with Red Album foraying into post-rock pastures for space. This birthed the likes of Rays On Pinion and Aleph, which, although evolutionary, lacked the songwriting harmony and sophistication that would come to define later masterpieces.

5. Yellow And Green (2012)

Similar to Red Album, Yellow And Green was a snapshot of the cocoon before everyone saw the fully formed butterfly. Baroness starkly swerved here, eschewing metal’s growls and gallop. Fans got more tightly honed songs from the deal, such as the still-treasured Take My Bones Away and March To The Sea, but the 75-minute scale means momentum starts to lag come disc two. The band would nail this smoother sound perfectly on what came next, though…

4. Gold And Grey (2019)

Everybody loved Purple, to the point that Baroness’s prowess could no longer be ignored, even by a body as out-of-touch as the Grammys. Following Shock Me’s trophy shortlisting, then the addition of Cirque Du Soleil guitarist/vocalist Gina Gleason, anticipation for the band’s next move peaked. Gold And Grey delivered, with Cold-Blooded Angels and Tourniquet drilling new emotional depths through Gleason’s croons. There were too many interludes and the production wasn’t immaculate, but those dents were dwarfed by everything else’s spotlessness.

3. Stone (2023)

“Who are you?” Gold And Grey asks Stone. “I’m you,” Stone replies, “but better.” Baroness clearly learnt from both the triumphs and missteps of their previous outing when chiselling album six. It’s a streamlined counterpoint (only 46 minutes) that cuts the filler while ratcheting up the intensity and Gina Gleason’s serene singing. The convulsing riff and vocal back-and-forths of Last Word made the single/opener an instant standout. Elsewhere, Shine and Under The Wheel felt jointly vulnerable and urgent.

2. Blue Record (2009)

For the metal purists among Baroness’s following, Blue Record is an insurmountable magnum opus. And, from the moment The Sweetest Curse contrasts its elegant guitar chords against the sound of John Baizley roaring his lungs out, it’s easy to understand the hype. This second statement is both brutishly muscular and fiercely intellectual, its craft reinforced by the fast-fingered Jake Leg, the lush A Horse Called Golgotha and The Gnashing’s acid-soaked majesty. Sludge has seldom had it this good.

1. Purple (2015)

Purple is a miracle of an album. That it even exists is extraordinary: Baroness’s tour bus tumbled off of a viaduct in 2012 and the injuries almost derailed their career. That it manages to be the perfect summation of everything that makes this band great, in spite of such adversity, is borderline inconceivable.

Baroness’s fourth effort filters the music-for-the-masses ideas of Yellow And Green through the impassioned drive of Blue Record. Morningstar opens with a twirling tech-metal riff, which returns to hammer home the effectiveness of the anthem’s proud pop chorus. Shock Me’s hardened verve and fuzz bass sweetly dissipate into oceans of multi-tracked vocals, whereas Chlorine And Wine is a rich dynamo of a song, escalating from atmospheric synths to amped-up chugs.

Purple’s refinement screamed for broader recognition, which it eventually received via Shock Me’s Grammy nod. However, such a standout deserved so much more. This collision of the evocative, the intelligent and the primal is still one of heavy music’s finest moments this century.

Matt Mills
Contributing Editor, Metal Hammer

Louder’s resident Gojira obsessive was still at uni when he joined the team in 2017. Since then, Matt’s become a regular in Prog and Metal Hammer, at his happiest when interviewing the most forward-thinking artists heavy music can muster. He’s got bylines in The Guardian, The Telegraph, NME, Guitar and many others, too. When he’s not writing, you’ll probably find him skydiving, scuba diving or coasteering.