04/16/2024

Undead Goathead

Dedicated to metal, music, and mischief.

Lyrical Analysis: Baroness – Beneath The Rose

Baroness is a progressive heavy metal band based in Savannah, Georgia, USA.

Intro:

Gawd I freaking love Baroness. They’re so goddamn weird! They’re too fucking cool! Bizarre. Unhinged. Feral. Freaky. The perfect juxtaposition of masculinity and vulnerability. And so, naturally, I’m absolutely obsessed. Enthralled. Smitten. Consumed. Give me more and more and more! I need, want, and crave it all!

How quite positively delicate, delicious, delectable and delightful, like a saccharine dessert, a special treat. I love the tasty drum licks by Sebastian Thomson. I am dazzled by the beautiful bass lines by Nick Jost. I yearn for those rowdy guitar riffs by Gina Gleason. And good sweet lord baby Jesus Christ, don’t even get me started on those haunting, heavenly vocals by John Baizley!

This latest release explores heavy themes of nature, death, strength, grief, loss, sorrow, rage, and regret. You know, all of the usual typical Baroness stuff. I especially appreciate the dark symbolism within the visuals of the music video. Let’s just take the biggest most badass bearded tatted heavy metal dude ever, drape a sheet of pure white frilly floral lace over his freaking head, bind him with ropes, blindfold him with chains, drench him in flowers and blood, and make him sing his heart out about his feelings. I especially love when he clasps his hands with a certain sort of nervous energy. Relatable as hell!

Let’s be real, Baroness music videos can be a little… well… silly. Creepy shadow men who are obviously just a dude in a black zentai suit with a clearly visible zipper… Fake tealight candles with plastic flames aglow… crossed eyes and funny faces…But this music video reminds me of the classic greats, like One by Metallica, Sentenced to Burn by Cannibal Corpse, You Only Live Once by Suicide Silence, or pretty much anything by Insomnium. Here are the reasons why and how this lovely track won my heart over:

Lyrics:

The click of the lock

The chime of the bell

The groaning of timber

And the etchings in my cell

This opening stanza paints a chilling scene of a claustrophobic setting, a prison-like environment in which we, as listeners, feel trapped. And, by proxy, so must the band, who are playing the song.

There’s marks on the pavement

There’s chalk on the floor

The choir invisible is knocking

Knocking

Knocking

Knocking

They now describe dirty streets, presumably filthy with grime, motor oil, bloodstains, and God knows what else. It’s left up to the listeners’ imaginations. Similarly, the chalk on the floor could be as wholesome and innocent as a game of hopscotch, or as sad and scary as a forensic outline at a violent crime scene, or the tally marks of an immured captive counting the endless days.

Baroness are skilled experts when it comes deliberate ambiguity. The mention of knocking, immediately conjures the image of knocking on a door. This reminds me of Walter White’s iconic lines in Breaking Bad, and could even allude to other classic songs, such as Knocking on Heaven’s Door, by Guns n Roses. And of course, the word “door” would perfectly rhyme with the “floor” set up a few lines ago. But instead of giving us the closure and satisfaction of a comfortable cliche rhyme scheme, “knocking” is simply repeated with increased intensity. The very mention of a door was only in my mind, its existence merely implied. On that same note, the “choir invisible” remains unseen and unknown in a metaphorical sense.

I wanna lie to you and tell you this is over

I want to say this is for the best

But when you’re hanging from the rafters in my attic

You know I’ll never let you down

Leave it to Baroness to take a perfectly innocuous turn of phrase like “I’ll never let you down”, just to make it creepy and chaotic within the context of “when you’re hanging from the rafters in my attic.” Their story always takes a dark turn, down a long twisted path, overgrown with wicked brambles.

This is not the hill that we die on

Blood beneath the rose

And now I’m caught between the thorns

And I can’t stop bleeding

I don’t know how else to explain this, but Baroness is like the wild possum of heavy metal music. Wild and free and strange, yet somehow oddly endearing and even alluring. Ah, to be an untamed savage beast wandering around in the deep dark forest, high up in the cold windy mountains, on a frosty winter night, with misty clouds obscuring a full moon and a galaxy of stars… Nothing to think about but ponds and toads and mushrooms and scorpions and centipedes… Hmm, yes. Living the dream. Oh yeah, baby, oh yeah!

Regardless, I think it’s fairly obvious that the point of the song, is that there’s a deep dark bloody secret tangled within the underground roots, hiding in secrecy, below a deceptively beautiful blooming blossom. Looks are deceiving, and the hidden truth can be brutal.

I’ve made a habit spilling secrets that I shouldn’t

But I’ve got holes between my teeth

I wouldn’t say I do this for a living

I do my best to earn my keep

Oof. I feel personally attacked. Like, huh, what? A blogger who’s a bit of a gossipy drama queen?! *Ghasp!* I’ll alert the presses!!!

But actually, come to think of it, I usually do know when to keep my big mouth shut, at least for the most part. When Fields of Elysium got a new band member, when Cassovita debuted a new track, whenever I accidentally stumble across unreleased demos, when so-and-so started dating you-know-who…. I zipped my lips for weeks or even months, until after the official press releases were already professionally announced. And then I pretended to be surprised, and acted just as shocked as everybody else!

Whoever gossips to you, also gossips about you. But that goes both ways, too. Anyone you can trust to keep your deepest darkest secrets *for* you, also probably keeps deep dark secrets *from* you. Nobody is ever truly fully trustworthy, even if they make an honest effort to do so. So on the one hand, I have a decent track record of staying quiet, as long as you do. But on the other hand, as soon as you start spilling your own guts, it’s all fair game. So maybe the rumors are true, that I’m a nasty, duplicitous, scheming, little sneak, but hey, at least I’m (semi) honest about it!

This will not be the cross that we bear

Blood beneath the rose

And now I’m caught between the thorns

And I can’t stop the bleeding

This music video also has disturbing themes of religion and church in an oppressive, ominous context. Perhaps the unfortunate reality of religious corruption is the true “cross that we bear”. This is a difficult question with no easy answer. I resent the archaic powers who abuse their authority, and yet, I have found some kind of personal solace within the practice of ceremonial rituals, both Christian and Pagan. But I also find a certain peace within atheist philosophy, or at least agnostic schools of thought. Just like everyone else, I too am a hypocrite or a sinner or a piece of shit or a normal flawed imperfect human being, whatever you want to call it.

Everything you have

And everything you need

Everything is broken

And the rest was meant to be

This is a testament to stoicism. You can’t change the things that happened in the past. Don’t let the regret and resentment eat you alive. I’m warning you from experience, those intrusive thoughts will devour you from the inside out, if you choose to ruminate on them. You have no choice but to accept your fate, so you might as well do so with grace and dignity. You don’t always get your way. Besides, what you need, what you want, and what you truly deserve, can be 3 very different things. I’ve previously discussed the double edged sword of gratitude and appreciation. Whatever you’ve got, must be everything you require in order to survive, if you’ve made it this far. If you don’t have something, you must not need it anyway. It’s up to you to make the best of what you do happen to possess.

I know this isn’t easy but it’s better late than forever

You’ve got copper and clover on the back of my tongue

I got the dust from your armor in my lungs

And the choir invisible comes knocking, knocking.

I love the part where Baizley and Gleason scream in unison: “I know this isn’t easy!” It’s my favorite moment in the whole entire song, which is already a beautiful masterpiece from start to finish. The line truly resonates with me, like deja vu. I could have sworn I’ve yelled those exact same words, in that exact same tone of voice, at some point in my life. Or perhaps it was a prophetic vision, predicting the possibility of me shouting those words in the future. Perhaps a bit of both. Certain patterns and vicious cycles have a nasty habit of repeating themselves.

Again, they take an old worn out phrase, but put their own unique Baroness spin on it. “Better late than forever?” What, exactly, is that supposed to mean? I guess to appreciate whatever you can, however brief or fleeting. The imagery of copper and clover in the throat, and toxic metal dust in the lungs, is suffocating, metaphorically choking and smothering. Once more, the ominous “choir invisible” looms nearby, “knocking, knocking” again.

Outro:

Damn, what an intense song! I thrive on the chaos of it all. I haven’t felt a genuine thrill like this in a long time. This reminds me of when I first fell in love with my other favorites, including Amorphis, Soilwork, Green Day, and Alice Cooper. Hell, I can even trace this emotion to the source, all the way back to that one fateful day that started it all, when I first heard the Beatles when I was 8 years old, and I immediately started screaming and squealing like a stereotypical Beatlemaniac fangirl, and I became hopelessly obsessed with music ever since. My extreme passion and enthusiasm exponentially escalates evermore with each passing year.

Hell, I’ll even admit that I’ve actually had butterflies in my stomach for several days and nights, while I wrote this very article, because I was so hyped and amped and pumped and excited that I physically couldn’t even contain myself. One day, I was cranking this album on full blast, while driving very fast, and laughing hysterically. I couldn’t help it. The music made me so happy, that my face lit up with a big old dumb grin, and I burst out giggling like a giddy school girl, and the other drivers were staring at me, and that only served to make it even better and funnier, and I just laughed harder and harder, and couldn’t stop, even if I wanted to. It was insane. It was crazy. I love it.

There’s something weird and wonderful about discovering a new fascination. It’s when something strikes your fancy in a certain special sort of way. Unique and yet familiar. Dark and disturbing, yet strangely sweet and sensitive. This music has a mysterious, moody, mystical quality to it. I feel like I’m dabbling with actual black magick. I know that I’ll eventually crash and burn from this emotional high, and there will be hell to pay for this overwhelming maniacal euphoria, but I just want to clutch and cling to this momentary bliss for as long as humanly possible, like Icarus melting into his waxen wings as he falls to the vast cold unforgiving sea. The double meanings and hidden secrets and lyrical poetry and circular logic… Gawd I freaking love Baroness!

The new Baroness album, Stone, will be released on September 15, 2023.