Baroness eschewing colour-coded nomenclature for their sixth album feels very much like a statement, or the laying down of a marker. And while this latest record might not see them diverge too wildly from beloved predecessors such as Gold & Grey and Purple, it does present both a subtle evolution and a desire to strip back as the band power towards new terrain.
This slimming down – probably no bad thing after the thrillingly ostentatious bloat of Gold & Grey – doesn’t mean a shortage of ideas or ambition, however. Indeed, if, as someone somewhere once said, it’s about the journey rather than the destination, then Baroness are intent on taking us on one hell of a trip. Craggy mountaintops, deep gorges, plashy fens and endlessly refracted rainbows all blur past as they effortlessly blend sludge, prog and something that sounds suspiciously like stadium rock.
Last Word and Shine are huge, rousing and demand the word ‘heroic’ be lobbed in their direction, while the sinuous creep of Under The Wheel allows post- hardcore undercurrents to bubble and crawl before cataclysmic crashes kick in. Elsewhere, the band’s more idiosyncratic traits are in full effect. Beneath The Rose and Choir see frontman John Baizley in full booming orator mode, as though somehow sitting astride the twin realms of power metal and noise rock. Softer notes are present, too, with the album’s thewy crunch bookended by bleary acoustic prettiness. These laid-back moments see John’s voice intertwine with that of lead guitarist Gina Gleason, conjuring sunny scenes of idyllic country life, or, at least, a band who might’ve heard a couple of Low records between them.
More than a simple distillation or a ‘return to roots’, Stone is an ideas-heavy brute in its own right: a monument to ambition and heaviness, and to refusing to rest too long in one place lest roots or languor take hold.