Saying that Baroness have strayed from metal orthodoxy with this, their third long-player, is to betray an ignorance of the sound and evolution of this Savannah foursome, who since 2003 have been wringing out more and more sheer beauty from a bedrock of sonic sludge. The excellent Blue Album (2009), on the basis of a few crooning tunes, could just as easily have found itself in the roots section of a record store, and the band's feel for multi-vocal harmonies and dynamic strummin' and pluckin' continues to blossom on this sprawling double album. Vocalist John Baizley is clearly coming from a screamer background, but here he tempers that tendency with lilting affectation (particularly on the '70s AM-radio-tinged refrain of "take me to a hazy Sunday morning" that propels the charming "Back Where I Belong"). Even in his most vein-straining moments, he channels that roar into the shape of an anthemic yelp, as on the positively Weezer-esque rollercoaster shout of "March to the Sea." In the '90s and '00s, when metal was "neutered" by grunge, this sort of classic-rock-ification of the genre resulted in the acoustic strumming and soulful harmonies of bands like Alice in Chains and a thousand bands that sounded just like Alice in Chains. Nearly 20 years later, though, the way that Baroness glide frictionlessly between downhome-ness and epic artiness, moments of rifftastic brute-rock and Steely Dan–y liquid lead guitars, just feels naturally dynamic rather than any sort of jarring genre rift. If that means that this record deserves to be compared less to the newest Lamb of God or Deathspell Omega assault and more to, say, the latest M83, then I say A-fucking-men and all-fucking-hail.
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