The state of Georgia has built up a strong metal scene since the turn of the millennium. During the 2000s, Mastodon led the way in terms of popularity and consistency, with Kylesa and Black Tusk following suit by the end of the decade. During this time, Baroness were about to begin their own journey into the metal stratosphere. After releasing a couple of EPs early on, they’d already built a formidable reputation across the metal spectrum. With Red Album, the band took the sludgy, abrasive, and heavy sound they had on those EPs and melded it with stoner, prog and atmospheric sludge metal.
Beginning with a Pink Floyd-esque intro with a dash of psychedelic ambience, ‘Rays on Pinion’ is possibly one of the best opening tracks to any album in the sludge/prog metal genre. The track slowly builds before hitting the three-minute mark and utter madness ensues. John Dyer Baizley (who also provided the artwork to all of the band’s releases before and since) roars in his throaty tenor as well as beating the hell out of his guitar. The following one-two punch of ‘The Birthing’ and ‘Isak’ provides the perfect blend of their old sludgy roots with their newfound prog surroundings. The guitars on this album are very crunchy and fuzzed out as well as the bass. Much like Brann Dailor of Mastodon’s performances on record, the drummer’s fills are what really set this album in motion. ‘Wailing Wintry Wind’ has such an amazing opening fill and solo that it’s nearly impossible to not headbang to.
At the time, there were a number of people comparing Baroness with their fellow Georgia patriots Mastodon. On a number of songs on this album, the band have taken the style of Mastodon’s southern licks from songs like ‘Megalodon’ and ‘Crusher Destroyer’ and extrapolated them. A good example of this is on ‘Wanderlust’ takes those licks and creates unique styles of dual-guitar melodicism at its best, and is perfectly balanced with an interesting countermelody by bassist Summer Welch. Baizley doesn’t sing as much as people would like throughout the record, and at times, he rightfully keeps the vocals out – the dry acoustic flurry on ‘Cockroach En Fleur’ and the mighty Appalachian thump of ‘Teeth of A Cogwheel’ are two instrumental tracks that glues the record together superbly. Eventually though, the record returns to its starting point, where the intro of “Grad” echoes the serenity of the opening minutes of ‘Rays on Pinion’, thus creating a sort of musical ouroboros. This time though, ‘Grad’ takes the calm to a final fanfare, and then beautifully fades like a red dusk.
All in all, Red Album provides an escape from your usual everyday metal, and takes the genre in a new direction. Chugging yet progressive and sludgy yet soft, Red Album is a fantastic debut, and has the perfect touch of sludge, progressive, and post-metal elements into each of its eleven tracks. Their albums since then have taken the band to a more progressive style, but it is this album where Baroness really developed their signature style. Much like the magnificent cover artwork, Red Album reflects the music in that it is truly intricate, beautiful and wonderfully its own.
1. Rays on Pinion
2. The Birthing
4. Wailing Wintry Wind
5. Cockroach en Fleur
8. Teeth of a Cogwheel
Baroness – ‘Red Album’ line-up:
John Dyer Baizley – Vocals and Guitar
Allen Blickle – Drums
Brian Blickle – Guitar
Summer Welch – Bass