The most confounding facet of Savannah, Ga., metal quartet Baroness' success is its tantamount failure: Though among the most popular bands to emerge on the American house circuit this decade, Baroness has been largely ignored in several of the metal circles that seem most readily geared toward its dynamic. Of necessity, they've reached rock-club status, and, in September, Baroness will begin a two-month European tour alongside Miami monoliths Torche. Still, most metal fans have never heard the band.
As metal imprint Southern Lord has risen to hipster prominence and the only major heavy metal tour, Ozzfest, has further ingratiated itself to the genre's genera, a band like Baroness--colossal Southern lords in their own right, combining prog-deep chops, doom-sized grit and the apocalypse howl of frontman John Baizley--has been lost in the rift. But that's the risk a band takes in going its own way: Baroness steers clear of confinement, grappling with the time-shifts, high-dexterity guitars and key changes of technical metal while losing little urgency in translation. As such, it's too high-minded for those looking for straight-ahead blast beat and too gritty for Iced Earth disciples preferring precision.
Instead, Baroness has found a welcome home with hardcore kids appreciative of the band's dynamic between sludgy grinds and frenetic riffing. Baizley's full-throated screaming is of import, too, though his lyrics--"Reprise and reconvene/ Take heed an emperor/ Does not an empire make/ Taste of this wine (That has become tomorrow today)"--have more to do with contemporary currents in metal than punk.
But some of the band's hardcore fandom is simply a matter of label: Baroness is a staple act of Savannah-based Hyperrealist Records, a stable of a dozen bands including meticulous screamo act Circle Takes the Square and straight-ahead punk thrusters Bricks. In fact, when they play in Chapel Hill Friday, they'll join a cache of punk and hardcore bands--from Austin's Architects to Indiana's Phoenix Bodies--that, in actuality, share little with Baroness. Sharing a fanbase, though, isn't an onus, especially if it means having one.
Baroness plays For The Kids Fest at Nightlight in Chapel Hill on Friday, Aug. 11. Twelve bands play from 2-10 p.m. For more, see www.myspace.com/forthekidsbooking.