One year ago, alt-metal band Baroness was touring Europe behind the release of their criticially-acclaimed LP Yellow & Green. This ambitious double album was getting strong buzz for introducing progressive-rock elements into a sludge-metal blueprint. It was a big moment for the Georgia-based band.
The momentum came to a screeching halt on a rainy morning in August 2012, however, when Baroness' tour bus plunged 30 feet off a viaduct. The accident occurred in Bath, England and injured nine people. Three members of Baroness were in the hospital, for more than two weeks.
A year later, Baroness frontman John Baizley has recovered from a broken left leg and a broken left arm. He has led his band back to the road, including an appearance at FYF Fest this weekend. His injuries may have been bad, but it turns out that wasn't the hardest part.
“We were holding up poorly under the stress of not being on tour,” he says on the phone during an off-day in Champaign, Illinois. “We feel like active participants in our lives again now that we're touring. The stress is there, but it's the stress that we like. It's the off time stresses that were really getting to us.”
Dealing with the fallout from the bus accident took a major toll on the Savannah quartet. Then-Baroness drummer Allen Blickle and then-bassist Matt Maggioni each suffered severe back injuries that led to their departure from the group. Baizley and guitarist Peter Adams were left to put the pieces of the Baroness puzzle back together with a new rhythm section, but Baizley wasn't satisfied with simply getting the band back to where they were before.
“The point wasn't to get back into decent shape,” Baizley says. “It was to get back, get better, and always be progressing. It was the lynchpin on which I hung all of my recovery.”
I's not just touring that's helping Baizley get back to what he calls “real life.” He has also had a successful side career doing cover art for many prominent metal and hard rock releases, as well as his own band's albums. This year, he has done album art for Norwegian hard-rockers Kvelertak and Cleveland thrashers Skeletonwitch as well as a new t-shirt design for Metallica. Baizley credits his art career with helping him stay positive during the challenges of the past year.
“I was feeling the downside of inertia, and now I have literal momentum again on the music and artwork front,” Baizley says. “It's doubly good because the momentum has forced me to come back faster and be a productive person again, which is how I define my success.”
Given the horrific events he has suffered, Baizley's positivity is impressive. Have his feelings about music and life changed?
“Everything has become more resolute,” he says. “I feel more confident in the decision we made years ago to play music full-time. If anything, it's given me more resolve to get on with the band, be productive, continue touring, making art, doing all of that as much as I can, as fast as I can. I've had a very shocking reminder that it can all end literally in a second.
“It seems obvious,” he says, “but when I sit there and think about it, it's a very powerful thing.”
Baroness performs at FYF Fest this Sunday, August 25th.
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