Baroness 

Blue Record

These sludge-metal dudes from Savannah turned heads among the heavy-music cognoscenti in 2007 with Red Album, whose cover depicted a couple of soulful-looking tribal types surrounded by loads of red flowers. Two years later, they're back with Blue Record, whose sleeve is dominated by fearsome images of waves and fish. Do not be surprised when 2010 brings us an Ochre EP and a picture of a lamp. That said, for a band of ultra-prosaic album titlers, Baroness is a big thinker when it comes to its music.

Here, as on Red Album, it keeps finding new ways to make old Black Sabbath tricks seem fresh, whether by giving the old war-pigs rumble some post-hardcore dexterity ("A Horse Called Golgotha"), upping the misty-mountain-melody quotient ("Blackpowder Orchard"), or stretching toward the horizon with trippy laser-show guitar theatrics ("Bullhead's Lament," which on any other metal band's record would have been called "Butthead's Lament"). Come for the predictable; stay for the un-. (Relapse)

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