Aggressive Tendencies: Year in Review 2007
1. Baroness Red Album (Relapse)
Released in late September, Baroness’s Relapse full-length debut Red Album has taken over the metal world. Its ascent is an intense upward spiral that is almost as dizzying as the album’s relentlessness. Red Album channels intricate swirls of cool moodiness and eerie ambience before propelling forth into lumbering, beastly songs that merit accreditation to friends and fellow luminaries Mastodon and Neurosis.
"I’ve heard people say this album is doing well but I wouldn’t say so,” admits guitarist/vocalist John Baizley on behalf of the Savannah, Georgia-via-Lexington, Virginia quartet. (It’s rounded out by drummer Allen Blickle, bassist Summer Welch and guitarist Brian Blickle.) "We’ve just been playing music as actively as finances and families will allow. We started with empty clubs and basement shows, trying to ensure that the trajectory of this band is as natural as it can be. We have modest punk rock backgrounds. We want to be respectful of where we come from. Nothing should come at the expense of our morals.”
Keeping your head screwed on straight can be a daunting task for any musician when your album has been dubbed imposing and a bona fide epic, even more so when it applies to your debut long-player. This is the time when most emerging artists strive to be concise in an effort to win over the hesitant masses. Red Album, however, eschews such notions. Sprawling and moderately experimental, it relishes in its vastness without losing touch with listeners. Then again, Baroness has had four years and little more than two EPs and a split CD to get it together."It got to the point where if it went another six months, we’d have been discouraged to make a full-length. That pressure had come,” says Baizley about anticipation for a full Baroness effort. "We — and our fans — started to wonder if we were capable of writing something longer than 20 minutes. Fortunately, we did what we know and improved on what we were weaker at. This album streamlines things. It’s a testament to that [ability].”Known best for aggressively straightforward sonic dirges heavy on doom-ish low end and fuzzy guitars, the experimentation on Red Album has caught some long-time fans off guard. While the progression has been deemed for the better in most cases, it is still hard to mask universal shock at Baroness’ forays into patient textures.
"The change musically seems drastic to some,” Baizley notes. "To use the metaphor, we capitalised on some colours we hadn’t touched on the palate but there were years between releases, shows and whatever. You’re going to see some change. It seems big to some people but to us, it was a tectonically slow shift.”Shrugging off the notoriety and subsequent expectation to succeed, Baizley maintains his humility. The external metal world may be up in arms about these potential successors to the progressive metal throne but internally, Baroness keeps their feet firmly planted in the trenches.
"I do appreciate that people like Red Album. That doesn’t go unnoticed. But we feel that the higher up we’re listed [in various contexts], the greater distance there is to potentially fall in terms of credibility or respect. We plug on as if nothing’s happening.” Keith Carman
2. Municipal Waste The Art of Partying (Earache)
The epitome of enjoyable metal is a sound that makes you want to get really drunk and then punch some stuff — and there are few bands that encapsulate that desire like Municipal Waste. The band’s third full-length, The Art of Partying, saw the crossover thrashers spread their alcoholic annihilation to greater audiences, including a summer set at Wacken Open Air in Germany. Picking up where 2005’s Hazardous Mutation left off, The Art of Partying succeeds in bringing metal, hardcore and punk fans together under one roof, and then creates enough chaos to blow that roof off.Bill Whish
3. The Locust New Erections (Anti-)
If there’s any band capable of making their listeners consistently feel like they’re completely losing their mind, it’s San Diego’s the Locust. Pounding, brooding, musically confusing and tight as hell, the band have staked a name for themselves through a process of aggressive alienation. New Erections makes for the perfect next step for such a band; distancing themselves from the non-stop onslaught of screaming and blast beats that got them this far, New Erections is awash in atmospheric breakdowns, grotesque melodies, and even (gasp!) repetition of some parts. Then it gets fast and makes you feel crazy all over again. Sam Sutherland
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