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2019’s Album of the Year - 100%

marktheviktor, August 12th, 2019

What an album! This is how coherency should sound like. I listened to it all the way through five times last week and I can honestly say there is not one weak track on this record.

With Gold & Grey, this band has expanded their own progressive repertoire going from sludge into the realm of hard rock/heavy metal but with a haunting atmosphere. And while this probably won’t change the minds of those who perceive Baroness as a hipster metal band very much in the mold of Mastodon (comparisons to their fellow Atlantans are not unfounded), think of the sound on this as brooding progressive stoner rock if that feels better going down.

The track list is where it’s at. The entire body. An album of this length (it’s an hour runtime) should captivate the listener the whole way through so that when it’s over, it feels like some sort of audial odyssey. When the last song concludes, you should remember the tracks that came before it. This is not easy to do, particularly when it comes to progressive rock. I’ve listened to prog albums that while interesting and good, I felt exasperated when it was over; too exhausted to want to listen to it again. That’s not the case here.

Why this works is simple: economical riffs. In listening to this album, I could tell these guys as rock and roll musicians understand how notes can be expensive. As a band rooted primarily in sludge, this works to great advantage anyway.

It is said that a rock or metal guitarist plays 4 chords in front of 4 million people and a jazz guitarist plays 4 million chords in front 4 people. This is a band that stays in their lane. They are very conservative with their simple soloing showcase so that when they do break them out they come off with sharp emphasis and accent in a song.

Or put another way, I liken a rock or metal guitar riff to a karate punch. Bruce Lee once said he wasn’t afraid of an opponent who practiced a thousand different punches, but he was afraid of the opponent who practiced just ONE punch.

But overall, the dynamic sound of the entire track list is what gets me. You’ll hear fast aggressive sonic dissonance give way to a jangly production feel. The singer shouts with a certain sludge wail. And then there will be succinct industrial style instrumentals interludes to follow that segue into the next catchy track. There’s even some trippy shoegaze moments (Emmett, Seasons); a very haunting simple acoustic beat on the tail end of the former and a psychedelic wall of sound embellishing the post rock riffs during the chorus of the latter. And then Broken Halo (probably the best track if I had to pick) kicks off with an upbeat approach to a psychedelic punk vibe (this is the song where those richness of riffs I talked about really show there stuff.)

The final track Pale Sun is pretty space-y and cold. It kind of sounds like something you’d hear from recent Enslaved. Throw Me An Anchor features riffs with a guitar tone made to sound like a Moog synth. It anchors (no pun intended) the tempo for most of the hard driving tracks on the album.

I bought this after hearing Broken Halo played in a record store. There was something about it that grabbed me but I wasn’t sure exactly what since I wasn’t entirely familiar with this type of band. I loved it even better when it melded itself among the rest of the track list. Coherency.

Album of the year!