Baroness: Bruised but unbroken

Monday 14th, December 2015 / 17:59
By Christine Leonard
Baroness release Purple on December 18th. Photo: Doug Seymour

Baroness release Purple on December 18th.
Photo: Doug Seymour

CALGARY — It was a dark and stormy day back in August of 2012, when the tour bus carrying Georgian alt-metal band, Baroness, careened 30 feet off a viaduct near Bath, England. None of those aboard escaped unscathed, including singer-guitarist John Baizley who suffered a broken arm and leg.

No one would have blamed the band for walking away from the whole situation after such a traumatic event, and that’s exactly what bassist Matt Maggioni and drummer Allen Blickle decided to do after each of them fractured vertebrae during the incident. Picking up the pieces, Baizley and guitarist Peter Adams recruited capable musicians, jazz-trained bassist-keyboardist Nick Jost and drummer Sebastian Thomson (Trans Am, Ian Svenonius’ Weird War), with the aim of restoring Baroness’s empire to its former glory.
“In a good way, I was innocent of pressures that came along with the task of starting over,” says Thomson. “Nick and I had just joined this great rock band and as new members our chief concern was simply wanting to make a great record. We didn’t feel the weight of preserving Baroness’s legacy as much as John and Pete might have.”

Duty-bound, the reformed Baroness completed that ill-fated tour in support of the band’s 2012 release, Yellow & Green (Relapse), before gradually returning to Baizley’s basement recording studio in Philadelphia. Exceeding all expectations, they began generating resilient new material that would eventually become their latest album, Purple.

“There were two stages to rebuilding the band,” Thomson continues. “The first involved Nick and I learning the old songs and going on tour with John and Pete and getting to know them as people. Getting to the second stage involved learning how to write together. That part of the process was not as immediate. Writing is a very personal thing and everybody has their own system. Some bands are very democratic, in other bands one person is responsible for composing, but usually it’s a combination. John had been playing with the former drummer, Allen, since he was a kid. All of a sudden he was writing with two new members who were still learning to jam together. There were too many moving parts, too many variables to take into account, so we decided the best way to deal with the writing process for Purple was to pair it down. Two of us, drums and guitar for example, would work on a beat or a groove at a time. Each song was pieced together in its simplest form, then we would worry about bringing more ideas into the mix.”

Prefaced by the singles “Chlorine & Wine” and “Shock Me,” Baroness’s forthcoming album is the first to be released under the band’s newly forged label, Abraxan Hymns. Recorded with Dave Fridman (the Flaming Lips, Sleater-Kinney) at Tarbox Road Studios in Cassadaga, New York, Purple rallies nine life-affirming tracks and one (17-second-long) alien dispatch. Birthing on December 18th, the vascular surge of momentum behind Purple supersedes the inward-gaze of Yellow & Green, evidencing an unquenchable spirit and blazing intellect.

“I think this record is more aggressive than the previous one. You could say that we’re returning, a bit, to the old Baroness, but at the same time we’re adding to it. We wanted to marry the songwriting style on Yellow & Green with the prog rock orgies of the earlier albums. In terms of lyrical content we like to give John his privacy, but it’s unavoidable that the physical and emotional repercussions of the accident would come up. All of that stuff is present, even though the lyrics on the album are very much about positivity and triumphing over the nightmare.”

Purple will be released on December 18, 2015 via Abraxan Hymns. You can pre-order the album from http://www.pledgemusic.com/projects/baroness.

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