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Baroness might mean something different to most connoisseurs of all things sludge, but to me they pretty well embody everything that Mastodon could be if they were more focused and competent as songwriters. The same formula of ugly, morosely shouted hardcore punk is merged with a somewhat technical, free flowing blend of progressive post-rock, but with a higher attention to detail and organic development rather than an overload of technical showboating and sloppy riffs. This rather aptly titled little EP showcases this approach in its most primitive form, and ironically it comes across less like a green attempt at serious music and more like a seasoned one.
The structure at play here is a relatively simple one, even though there is a fair amount of technical doodles thrown in here and there. The two longer songs in “Tower Falls” and “Rise” take a good amount of time to emphasize the band’s noise/ambient influences, mostly hanging on an exaggerated dichotomy of mud and high-pitched droning, not all that out of character for Isis’s handiwork. When the vocals come in and out the format reverts to a fairly traditional sludgy punk character, picking up in speed and laying on the angst-ridden barks in typical fashion. All in all, the amount of orthodox sludge riffing and vocal work probably accounts for about 35% of the content of these two songs, which is underscored by the deliberate limitation of the extended instrumental sections on the shorter song “Coeur”, which is all but a prototypical up tempo sludge song with a mild hint of post-rock overtones.
Some point to this as being a sound that lends itself to an organic naturalism when experienced, but I tend to think of this more as being a boat ride through a swamp than a pleasant day in a field. It has sort of a mild character that would put the season of this outing to the local marshland somewhere in mid-Autumn, being just cool enough for the insect activity to die down a bit but still be present. It might be a little bit too longwinded, easy going and fancy for the average Crowbar fan, but for someone who wants that dense character of sound without drifting off into tech. mania, it’s a good monetary risk.
Originally submitted to (www.metal-observer.com) on January 16, 2011.