Purple, the latest album from Savannah, Georgia metal band Baroness, is an intense burst of misery, pain, chaos, fright and determination.
And what's most remarkable about the record is that every bit of that emotional thunderstorm comes from the same place, the same moment.
What should have been a triumphant 2012 tour saw the band's world upended in an instant when their tour bus crashed in the English countryside, falling 30 feet from a viaduct near Bath.
Frontman John Baizley broke an arm and a leg, spending the next two and a half weeks immobile in a hospital. Guitarist Peter Adams, an Army veteran with a Purple Heart, suffered burns and cuts. Bassist Matt Maggioni and drummer Allen Blickle both fractured vertebrae and subsequently left the band. The crash—and lengthy recovery period—naturally forms the core of Purple.
"If you have some overwhelming fear of something, airplanes or spiders, by addressing those things directly, however you do so, you can pull away some of the power that thing has over you in terms of anxiety and fear and regain confidence," Baizley says. "Music has always been that. It's not a new thing for us, or any musician, but it's been a very pronounced thing for me over the last few years. I chose, as I always choose, to use our music as a dumping ground for all that."
In the period following the crash, Baroness recruited Nick Jost on bass and keyboards and Sebastian Thomson on drums and set about writing a suite of 10 songs that find the band in a spirit that's simultaneously aggressive, melodic, intricate and powerful.
"We have in the past four years been through some pretty extreme situations that have life-changing effects and tons of drama and tons of recovery and reconciliation," Baizley says. "There's a physical side to it, there's a mental side to it, and all the stuff that's been going on in our sphere has had an impact on our music."
The focus for the record wasn't to tread too far into a conceptual realm, but to deliver songs that were shorter, more direct, more instant in their impact.
"The goal was, if before it took us six minutes to say 'X, Y and Z,' let's see if we can say it in three minutes," Baizley says. "We tried to make the music as immediate to people as possible."
The name of the record, Purple, follows a series of color-named albums for Baroness: Red (2007), Blue (2009) and the 2012 double-album Yellow & Green.
"At first I really wanted to do something that didn't fit into the chromatic thing, but by the time the record was finished, it was obvious that this fit in with those preexisting albums. So much had changed, but our music had remained pretty firmly intact. We needed to and the music asked for us to add some element of the familiar because there were so many variables," Baizley says. "This is hopefully in my mind the end piece of that tradition and we can take it somewhere else from here."