Published Oct 14, 2009"There has to be a reason. It's not just ars gratis artis anymore," says Baroness guitarist/vocalist John Baizley about the band's sophomore effort Blue Record, released on Tuesday (October 13) via Relapse.
As many know, this Savannah, GA progressive sludge metal quartet have always been a rather intense listen. With their crushing distortion and throaty bellows offset by sublime bouts of interwoven serenity, they continually ride the strange line of destructive girth and creative fragility.
As they unleashed their inaugural full-length Red Album in 2006, we saw those aspects gel so wonderfully that it's impossible to imagine Baroness doing anything but. Thankfully, as Baizley discusses Blue Record with Exclaim!, he feels the same way.
"[As you age] you're able to reflect on some of the more primal reactions to things," he notes. "I think that we have to challenge ourselves as musicians to create beyond our means but we also have to challenge our fans to appreciate beyond their means. If you love this album immediately, well, I didn't. Sometimes you have to let it grow on you. Those are the records that never stop offering you something new."
For Baizley and crew, that "new" was to create what he refers to is a very "personal" record, one that looks inward as opposed to being inspired by what was around them. On the other hand, he states that Red Album was an outward reaction to everything around the band.
"Conceptually, with the last record, we were attempting - what I feel we did - was reacting to external things," he says. "The music was influenced by things so we took all of these things that inspired us on the last record, be it another piece of music, art, literature or cinema, people and we reacted to that. We reacted to the outside world and to experiences that stood independently from us. How we reacted to that was what we put into our music."
The only natural, opposing step would be to ignore any outside influence and write music based solely on intense introspection. The end result is Blue Album, an incredibly bold venture of commingling dichotomies - intellectually and musically. Because it is closely related to personal revelations, Baizley feels Blue Record escapes the trappings of the ars gratis artis ("art for art's sake") mentality previously noted.
"With this record, we did the exactly opposite," he explains. "We turned the microscope inwards and the record was all about our personal experiences and those things that were non-physical that inspired us. They came from within and the difficulty there was to present that in a way that didn't restrict our audience - to present it in a way that there was room for interpretation so we stressed the overall mood of the pieces more than technical precision or accuracy."
All in all, Baizley reveals that Blue Record is a union of gut reaction filtered through the analytical mind. While that seems straightforward, he admits that it created another difficulty: the danger of being mired in overanalysing their own creativity and never finishing.
"[On this album], we try to harness those emotions - those passions - into something. There are things we feel are relevant to say whether or not you explain them concretely. That's another story but there are things we're attempting to do. There were moments where the forest was visible through the trees and moments where we got lost in a particular section of the music, wondering what we should do and if it was right. The determining factor at all points was: Does this feel right? Does this feel like us? Does this put our point across as succinctly as possible and is it a lucid distillation of what we're attempting? When the answer was yes, we forged on. When it was no, we reconfigured."
So why get this intense? What is it about Baroness, their grandiose sludge and its defining factors that has pushed Blue Record into this state of intuitive riffs and passages distilled by brain power?
Only then, does Baizley have the simplest of answers: "Man, I've been making music for 20 years. It can't just be completely intuitive at this point. I want that challenge."