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CD Review: Baroness' Yellow and Green 

Relapse; Release date: July 17, 2012

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Baroness has always been difficult to categorize. Like peers Torche and Mastodon, its brand of metal includes pop-, prog- and indie-rock elements. But with the band's latest, Yellow and Green, the Savannah, Ga., quartet pushes even further afield leaving its hard rock roots in the dust on an 18-song double album as inspired by Yes as Black Sabbath.

Keyboards take on a larger role, overshadowing the guitars on the six-minute Celtic-tinged "Back Where I Belong" and its dreamy space-rocking mate, "Cocainium." Finger-picked acoustic guitars key other songs such as spare folky instrumental "Stretchmarker," and "Twinkler" with its dramatic multi-tracked harmonies. There's also anthemic modern rock with a post-grunge feel ("Sea Lungs," "March to the Sea"), flashes of churning gothic post-punk ("Psalms Alive") and shoegazer drone ("Green Theme," "I Forget Thee, Lowcountry").

At 75 minutes, there's plenty of time to try different things out — and they hit on a surprising number thanks to strong post-rock dynamism and increased hooks. They could use a few more choruses but those they do have are getting stronger and more memorable. Mostly, the album is driven by art rock fascinations. You'd be hard-pressed to find a song without some expansive, jammy break — though some crackle and crash, most soar and bank with orchestral panache.

While the progressive arrangements are a consistent feature of the group's first two albums, grandeur has replaced the band's churning attack. However, one track titrates the perfect balance. "Little Things" traces a faltering relationship's course over an exceptionally catchy, keenly crafted mix of laconic drone and gritty crunch as frontman John Baizley laments his lying ex, "you greasy little thing." The album drifts — almost inevitable at this length — and the music would have been better served paring it down to the best tracks to produce something exemplary and less middling. Nonetheless, this double disc demonstrates admirable moxie and breadth that promises more for the future than it delivers here.

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