2016 has been a catastrophically terrible year for literally everything on the planet – except music. It could well be coincidence, but it’s much more likely that a lot of this art has come in direct response to the sociopolitical walls crumbling down around us in an endless avalanche of despair. Art has been the sole triumph of this year, but this is not a new phenomena; it’s not uncommon to see great art rise from the ashes of tragedy, turmoil and change.
After nearly four years of silence, metal stalwarts Baroness returned in the very final moments of 2015 to deliver Purple. A tremendous return to the fore, it marked the group’s first major release since experiencing their own seismic shift; in 2012, a serious accident led to nine people on their tour bus sustaining injuries, which later resulted in the departure of longterm members Matt Maggioni and Allen Blickle. Maggioni and Blickle were then replaced by Nick Jost and Sebastian Thomson on bass/keys and drums respectively.
The band planned to make their album “much more direct and immediate,” said frontman John Baizley at the time. Citing the “dark themes” on Purple, he explained, “We wanted to write with our normal focus on artistry, balanced against an increased level of energy and focus. It was important for us to write our new songs with the type of enthusiasm and expressiveness.” He continued, “As a result, the music came out in an intense, heavy and sonically captivating in a new way, which was important, loathe, as we are to fall into any kind of complacency pitfall or formulaic songwriting routine.”
When Baroness arrived on stage at The Metro Theatre this Wednesday, it was immediately clear that that same level of consideration and energy was poured into their live performance. Their powerful stage presence is has received repeated acclaim – indeed, that very morning the Georgia group had received a Grammy nomination for exactly that reason.
The band began their set with the lightning fast drums of Kerosene, followed by the gorgeous guitar-driven melodies and low-hanging rhythms of Yellow & Green standout March To The Sea. We soon arrived at Shock Me, the track which earned them their Grammy nomination. It wasn’t difficult to see why they had been recognised by the highest accolade in music. Simply put, it was phenomenal. From there, they ripped through the majority of Purple, occasionally peppered with older favourites like A Horse Called Golgotha and The Gnashing from Blue Record.
The music waxed and waned in waves of rhythm and walls of sound, but the energy remained high throughout. There truly is something to be said of a metal band who curates their set with variety in pace and flow; without these shifts in tone and speed it can feel overbearing, even difficult to follow, but Baroness’ live show, together with their on-stage chemistry, is crafted in a way that allows you to really take in every song and every rhythm, remaining consistently engaging and dynamic throughout the entire set.
The audience interaction was minimal, with most on-stage banter came from guitarist Peter Adams, who thanked the crowd and spoke about how much they’re loving Australia. But you don’t go to a Baroness show to hear them chat to the audience, you go to watch them perform – and perform they did.
It was clear that the band were having the best time on stage, a feeling which really permeated throughout the set and the crowd, right through to the final tracks and explosive encore. After a short break, the band returned and announced their two final songs – the rhythmic Isak from Red, and of course, leaving the explosive Yellow & Green single Take My Bones Away for a triumphant, singalong finale.
There’s a very good reason that Baroness received a Grammy nod for their live performance. I couldn’t be happier that I finally had the chance to catch this incredible band in the flesh.
Baroness continue their Australian tour tonight and throughout the next week. We highly recommend purchasing a ticket if you haven’t already.
The remaining tour dates are as follows:
Friday December 9: The Prince, VIC
Saturday December 10: Meredith Music Festival, VIC
Monday December 12: The Gov
Tuesday December 13: Amplifier Bar