Since their debut album Red in 2007, Baroness has risen as one of the top sludge metal bands. Constantly building upon their past efforts, Gold & Grey, their 2019 effort, was their most confident and well-rounded material. After four years of waiting, they have put out one of their most compelling albums.
Stone is an album that is, most definitely, worth the wait. Although much shorter in length compared to Gold & Grey, Stone provides more progressive growth as a band, and is ultimately a rewarding album for fans of the band, and genre.
While the album certainly exudes an invigorating spirit and a heightened emphasis on psychedelic elements, it doesn’t mark a completely new direction for Baroness. Instead, it is, indeed, marked growth in sound and experimentation while not treading too far away from their trademark sound.
Stone is the first Baroness album that doesn’t take its name from a color. Although this might seem like a superficial point, it was clearly a deliberate choice. John Baizley stated in an interview a while back that they were ready to move away from the color-themed albums and into something new, and this album marks both a change in sound, and a progression onto something new.
The album kicks off with the the somber, “Embers,” featuring Baizley and guitarist Gina Gleason harmonizing with acoustic fingerpicking, bird chirps, and melancholic piano chords. Elsewhere, “The Dirge” lives up to its name with lamentations. Acoustic guitars are used throughout the album, expanding and coalescing to the closer, “Bloom,” providing a folk-like atmosphere that amalgamates well with the rest of the album.
Some of the heaviest material the band has produced, to date, appears on the new LP. “Beneath the Rose” is a dark and sinister sounding cut, adjoining their stoner tendencies with the progressive metal influences that they are more clearly now wearing on their shoulders. “Anodyne” brings dueling guitar work, and flash fretwork that exemplifies their artistic mastery.
Although Stone may not match the meandering brilliance of Gold & Grey due to its shorter duration, it more than compensates with a driven push to boil the material down to what works best. Despite a multitude of challenges before, and after the pandemic, Baroness continues to prove that they are one to keep an eye on.
A brilliant, and almost flawless record that was boiled down to its finest moments.