Nearly a year has passed since that fateful day when the Baroness tour bus plunged 30ft off a viaduct in Bath, England. Nine folks were transported to hospital that day, all with severe injuries. Some suffered more than others and during the lengthy recovery period that followed Allen Blickle and Matt Maggioni sadly announced their departure from the band. With Pete Adams and John Baizley carrying on, this latest recording sees a changed line-up performing at the famous BBC Studios in Maida Vale.
With the songs all coming from the double-album they were touring that day, there is a special significance placed on each track. It is almost unavoidable that the lyrics are now burdened with different interpretations. Just the title of “Take My Bones Away” is enough to trigger a lump in the throat. It wouldn’t be right if they didn’t come across differently, being a live EP, so I am pleased to report only improvements to songs that felt a little too much like repetitious pop songs the first time around.
There is no doubt that any kind of muddy, under-produced mix brings out the best in Baroness and this one brings them a bit closer to their powerful early work and their true live sound. Their warm, fuzzed tone has been brought to the fore and this has captured the dark emotion-soaked undercurrent (that melancholy they wear like a comforter) so much better than in the studio mixes. The clean harmonies are still there too, but their levels are now more on a par with the guitars. Consequently, they sound more integral and don’t stick out like sore thumbs (excuse the pun).
The portentous intros are excellent additions (the building cymbals on “Take My Bones Away”, the echoing strums on “March To The Sea”), driving the listener into each track. The biggest winner here though is “Cocainium”. With a subtle warping invoked and the sustain dial notched up, the flow is so much gentler and you’ll find yourself really tripping out. It’s true that the songs can still be viewed as a departure for them; their hands stretching out to the revolving, melodic, space rock that Torche have made their own in recent years. Also, there’s a mere four tracks, none of which haven’t been released already in some form, but it doesn’t really matter. It’s just great to see them back recording and playing their music with new impetus, doing the songs justice and producing a record that die-hard fans will truly cherish.
(7/10 John Skibeat)