In the 12 years that its members have expanded their palette from barreling heavy metal to complex, psych-tinged hard rock, one thing has been a constant about Baroness: It's a loud, loud band. Even its ballads are bruisers – something we hear in "Tourniquet" on this year's Gold and Grey, where roomy acoustic strums give way to scorched-earth distortion.
But consciously ramping down the volume provides space for rediscovery, something that frontperson John Dyer Baizley and lead guitarist Gina Gleason have found in a run of acoustic performances this year. Setting up for a set at WXPN's Key Studio Sessions, Baizley said "When we play electric full band shows, everybody's trying to be louder than the other person." Gleason might play something unexpected, for instance, and Baizley will respond with greater intensity, and this goes back and forth, with the rhythm section of bassist Nick Jost and drummer Sebastian Thomson getting into the fray and goading then on.
As Baizley tells it, you reach a certain point where there's so much sound that you're not hearing the song anymore. But taking the music down to subdued acoustic arrangements "forces you to really listen," and playing acoustic duo Baroness gigs — whether at in-stores, support slots or one-offs — opens up the possibilities of the band's music.
On Gold and Grey, "I'm Already Gone" is a strident, smoky anthem, but brought back down from the dense atmospheres of the studio version for this performance, its lyrical ruminations on regret feel even heavier. The scorned "Tourniquet" experiences an even greater reinvention, when at the four-minute mark, the song's rhythm drops out for Baizley and Gleason to share a harmonized duel guitar solo with a shimmering European folk flare. The band also used the performance to revisit the harrowing "Foolsong" from 2012's Yellow and Green. Gleason's nimble playing shines through a flamenco-style guitar solo that is complex, fast paced and absolutely beautiful.
Listen to the full Key Studio Session at WXPN. Gold and Grey is out now on Abraxan Hymns.