Purple brims with vitality

In 2012, American band Baroness went through one of the touring musician's biggest nightmares - the bus that they were travelling in went off a bridge in England.

Although band and crew survived, it left singer/guitarist John Dyer Baizley with broken limbs and drummer Allen Blickle and bassist Matt Maggioni with fractured vertebras. While the latter two left the group soon after, Baizley and guitarist Peter Adams soldiered on, recruiting drummer Sebastian Thomson and bass guitarist Nick Jost as replacements.

On Purple, their first release since the accident and their fourth album to date, the band sound like they've taken that close brush with death as an opportunity to rejuvenate themselves. Instead of navel-gazing tunes about mortality, the 10 tracks in the new album are brimming with vitality.

Purple continues the tradition of naming the band's album after the colours of the rainbow (the first three were named Red Album, Blue Record, Yellow & Green). One thing is for sure, Baroness is one metal band who are not afraid of utilising melodies and the quartet pepper the album with plenty of uplifting moments.

  • ALTERNATIVE METAL/PROGRESSIVE ROCK

  • PURPLE

    Baroness

    Abraxan Hymns

    4/5 stars

Shock Me, the album's near radio-friendly second single, sounds like a regular pop-metal ditty at a cursory listen. However, closer scrutiny reveals the band's ingenuity in employing unusual and odd-time rhythms to anchor the song.

The addition of Thomson is a well-made choice - the man absolutely shines with wild rolls and imaginative drum beats that range from dance-punk rhythms on Try To Disappear to complicated shuffles on If I Have To Wake Up (Would You Stop The Rain?).

Chlorine & Wine, one of the more outstanding tracks on the album, showcases the band's expansive sounds. With its minimal piano introduction, it sounds like Queen gone prog-metal, with Brian May-like guitar lines, multiple parts and arena-worthy singalong choruses. While many of the tracks feature meaty power chords, downtuned riffs and pummelling drums galore, delicate tunes such as the instrumental interlude, Fugue, balances out the album's epic heaviness with tender moments.

On his own, Baizley's bellowing vocals can get one-dimensional and the singing gets interesting only when he harmonises with Adams. You wish that Baizley, as the lead singer, would try to stretch himself a little further and increase his range.

It's a minor quibble, though, as the inspired riffs, rhythms and arrangements throughout Purple more than make up for the insipid vocals.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 06, 2016, with the headline 'Purple brims with vitality'. Print Edition | Subscribe