IT HAS BEEN just over 13 months since Baroness released their third album, Yellow & Green. It is the highest-charting record in the Savannah, Georgia band's discography, a critics' favorite, and a stunning artistic achievement that finds Baroness spreading their heavy wings and soaring.
But all anyone wants to talk to frontman John Baizley about is August 15, 2012—when the band's tour bus careened off a viaduct in England, injuring everyone aboard, halting promotion of the album and eventually driving two members out of the group.
Even after answering hundreds of questions about that day, Baizley—who broke an arm and a leg, and spent four months in a wheelchair—doesn't mind talking about the accident.
"It's been therapeutic for me," he says. "The fears and stresses that I've felt, I've had to address them very quickly, very openly, and very frequently. It has hustled me through what probably would've taken me much longer to deal with."
From a business perspective, the timing of the crash—one month after Yellow & Green was released—was catastrophic. The album is still considered Baroness' breakthrough, thanks to its grand ambition and easy accessibility; it's the best document yet of the band's evolution from melodic metal-tinged riff-monsters to powerful crunch-pop band. But that breakthrough could've been so much more.
"We put a lot of work into setting the record up, and that all fell flat," Baizley says. "And a lot of [promotional] things that we had planned are not really fun... but we did it because it was in service to our music, and it was going to be the way that we opened our arms up a little wider to our audience."
Even a year later, Baizley's disappointment is palpable. But he makes it so one doesn't have to read between the lines.
"Hell yeah, it was disappointing," he says. "We were looking forward to putting this record out and either people loving it or hating it. But still, we were going to shove it down their fucking throats, and we couldn't, and that's that."
Now, they can. This summer, Baroness got back on the road with a new rhythm section and is better than ever, Baizley says.
"We have a sense for how fortunate we are to be alive, to be playing. So we take the good and the bad a little differently now; it's all worth a bit more to us," he says. "But fundamentally, we started this band because we felt passionate about playing music. We continue this band because we still feel passionate about the music."
For this band, that very thing—the music—has been a bit overlooked over the past year. But Baizley is excited to be playing again, and to begin writing again, and to see where Baroness goes from here.
"We're a band. We're meant to grow. We're meant to try new things. We're meant to create artistic challenges for ourselves and we're meant to learn," he says. "As we go along, we're meant to use a wider vocabulary, musically speaking, to present our ideas. The more flexible we become, the better a band I consider us."