Yellow & Green

On its new magnum opus, “Yellow & Green,” Southern hard-rock titan Baroness elbows for space at the crossroads of metal, prog and indie rock — a narrow strip of territory currently occupied by superstars Queens of the Stone Age and Mastodon.

Unlike the latter band, which likes to craft intricate concept albums about astral projection that should come with Cliffs Notes, Baroness isn’t much for traditional hard-rock mythology: The dual-disc “Yellow & Green” is divided into two albums not because it needs to flog any overarching theme, but simply because there are too many good songs for just one.

Both discs are ambitious in gaze and in length, although not in narrative scope: “Green” is slightly mellow, and “Yellow” is slightly less mellow. “Yellow & Green” divides itself between things the band has traditionally done well (unthreatening metal with a hint of sludge, as on the booming “Board Up the House”) and newer styles it appears to be just trying on (like the rippling psych rock of “Cocainium” or blink-and-you’ll-miss-them fades into sort-of pop, almost dance-funk and near alt-country).

It’s terrific in all the usual ways (tone, texture, chops, general rocking-ness), but not revolutionary in any.

There’s the inevitable breakthrough single (“Take My Bones Away,” proof that Baroness fears neither hooks nor early Foo Fighters comparisons); the elaborate set piece (“Eula,” a ballad turned fists-to-the-sky pummeler that is possibly the band’s best song ever); and the One That Proves We Can Still Rock (almost everything else, but especially the bruiser “Sea Lungs”).

Cover art for Baroness' album “Yellow & Green” (Courtesy of Relapse Records)

The album was born to convert and to persuade fence-sitting classic and alt-rock fans to check out the band’s harder and less accessible back catalogue. Which means that “Yellow & Green” isn’t just the best hard rock album of 2012, it’s a heckuva gateway drug.

Allison Stewart

Recommended Tracks

“Take My Bones Away,” “Eula,”
“March to the Sea”