So this is it, eh? This is the greatest thing since sliced bread? If you read the popular Metal mags (and by popular I mean some shit you can get at a Barnes & Noble), which I do because I enjoy reading things I disagree with for some masochistic reason, you’re aware that the vast majority of critics speak of Baroness with the same type of reverence usually reserved for The Beatles or Elvis Presley. Just the end-all, be-all of music as we know it. I finally get the chance —albeit in the form of this somewhat overbearing double-LP— to see what the fuck the big deal is. After nearly two months of rotational play, I’m still waiting on the answer. This ain’t shit! And it’s not because the quartet’s Alternative/Pop/’70s Rock hybrid is softer than a wet baby’s ass dipped in molasses and down feathers. Not everything needs to be brutal. I enjoy a wide variety of musical styles, Metal just happens to be the best. It’s that they aren’t all that good at it. As musicians, they are adept at crafting a catchy, radio-ready tune with big hooks and melodic sharpness, but when they rock, they don’t rock hard enough. When they go the pretty, shimmering, heartfelt route, it’s enjoyable but nothing I haven’t already heard done a thousand times better by the likes of Hopesfall, Theta, Jets to Brazil, The Appleseed Cast, the list is endless. Then when they take the brown acid, they lose me altogether. But this is really all irrelevant. The main reason Baroness fails is because John Baizley isn’t that good of a singer. He has his moments —I like the harmonies on “Twinkler” and “Collapse,” they should go for a Bergtatt Ulver thing instead— but he ultimately lacks the smoothness and charisma that could take the band next-level (see “Little Things” and “Cocainium”). He ruins the otherwise decent choruses of “Take My Bones Away” and “March to the Sea” with an almost tone-deaf awkwardness. So, apparently the answer to that sliced bread question: tenth-rate Open Hand.
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