As your legs buckle beneath the Viking stomp of Baroness, it's easy to imagine the four musicians dressed in wolf and bear hides as they tote axes (the guitar kind) and drumsticks (the half-eaten kind) into town for some friendly pillaging at your local tavern. This is sludge-metal, and it just feels medieval. But like fellow Georgians Mastodon (and somewhat like the Sword, which hails from Texas), Baroness injects an ineffable Southern indie-metal vibe into its groove. Much of it has to do with letting speaker cabinets rattle and old-school jams unfurl naturally.
This follow-up to 2007's "Red Album" -- which Revolver magazine called the year's top release -- is consistently nuanced and creative. Vocalist-guitarist (and album-cover painter) John Baizley somehow remains musical as he bellows about topics such as "A Horse Called Golgotha" in a manner that makes it clear he has a very manly beard. Above-average acoustic interludes provide elegant relief from the bludgeoning.
Dynamics and trippy textures nudge into experimental- and space-rock galaxies: the pretty, reverberating vocal harmonies on "Steel That Sleeps the Eye"; the short fuse of guitar fuzz near the start of "Jake Leg"; the unexpected, dance-club-friendly rhythms and spoken vocals of "O'er Hell and Hide"; the hallucinogenic album outro "Bullhead's Lament." Above all, though, it's the brilliant use of beefy twin-guitar harmonies that makes Baroness especially fierce. Two guitars are always heavier than one, sort of like a double-headed battle-ax.
Baroness performs Nov. 18 at the Rock & Roll Hotel.
-- Michael Deeds
DOWNLOAD THESE: "The Sweetest Curse," "O'er Hell and Hide" "The Gnashing"/"Bullhead's Lament"