Since the last time I saw them open for Lamb of God a year ago, I’ve wanted to see Baroness again hoping they would do another tour ASAP. Thankfully I didn’t have to wait too long as they’re headed out again on their Sweet Oblivion tour in support of their latest record Stone, this time bringing along a huge number of diverse bands varying across each leg of the tour ranging from Jesus Piece to Portrayal of Guilt to Soul Glow to KEN Mode and more. The Chicago stop was blessed to have both Spotlights and Chat Pile opening for the modern sludge/prog metal legends.
Spotlights are as DIY as they come, originally starting as a simple passion project between two partners and their friend that picked up some serious steam after Brooklyn Vegan promoted their debut LP, resulting in it coming across the desk of Chino Moreno of Deftones, culminating in a series of festival and tour appearances. Now coming off of three full-length releases, Spotlights continue to impress with their unpredictable, unassuming sound filled with push-and-pull instrumentals creating a sense of peace, but also chaos at the same time making them a perfect opener for Baroness.
Still keeping a DIY approach, Spotlights handle the writing and recording process completely on their own, recording their last record in the basement of their Pittsburgh home. Not wanting to do the same thing again, Spotlights went with a punchier, almost claustrophobic ambience to their new music signaling their desire to not want to simply reproduce the same product repeatedly. Spotlights is a band you want to keep your eye on in the coming future.
Midwestern natives Chat Pile followed up with their noise rock style that sounds like a mixture of sludge metal mixed with post-punk or grunge. Erupting out of the recent Midwestern noise rock explosion, Chat Pile have been crushing it since the release of their two EPs and 2022 full-length, God’s Country. Like the toxic waste inspiring their name and the typical story of a Midwestern industrial town being abandoned and left to rot, Chat Pile are an intense, suffocating mixture of sound that manages to be alluring and interesting at the same time.
I’ve seen a few noise rock artists before, and a few of my friends play in a band and do solo material heavily inspired by noise music, so I have some familiarity with it already, but Chat Pile are one of the better renditions I’ve seen yet. A sound and artistic style that, while not a new concept, is quickly becoming maybe a little bit too common and popular, it’s refreshing to see Chat Pile at the forefront while keeping it fresh and unique.
Ever since I saw Baroness open for Lamb of God last year I’ve been hoping they would come through the area again sometime soon. Thankfully my wishes came true, and not only that, they came through as the headliner instead of an opener. Coming off the success of their sixth studio album, Stone, Baroness were more than ready to tear it up again on stage with no intention of slowing down. A band that has gotten tighter and better over the years, even with changing lineups, Baroness are still one of the most consistently incredible bands both on record and live, creating an experience that needs to be witness firsthand.
Opening with “Embers” and “Last Word” from Stone, Baroness knows how to make an entrance creating the same atmosphere as the current reigning champs for a sports team or a massive stadium/arena band coming out to a packed arena. They followed up with an double header with “A Horse Called Golgotha” and “March to the Sea.” As impressive, or maybe impossible, as it may sound, a Baroness show is a nonstop rock block for the entire duration, so to say a small portion of the show was the best part is an understatement for how good of a performance they put on.
Playing songs from across their entire discography, experiencing Baroness as a headliner instead of an opener really does make all the difference. Seeing them as an opener was like an appetizer before the bigger, better meal. It can be a great, but it’s still an appetizer nonetheless. Finally, closing out with a rock block consisting of “Isak,” “The Sweetest Curse,” and “Take My Bones Away,” Baroness knew how to create the perfect icing for the cake.
Baroness’ ability to write music that includes so many different influences across their entire vast catalog while keeping their consistently high quality is incredibly impressive. This seeps into their live shows as each note hits and those epic guitar and groove moments feel like they’re literally sweeping you off your feet. Even cooler, there are little moments in songs where Baroness emphasizes them a little bit differently or adds small extensions to certain moments and songs making you feel like you hearing it for the first time.
For comparison, another band that does this same approach when performing live are Knocked Loose, and even rising Chicago locals, Kharma, where when they play older tracks, they’ve changed their tuning, added an extra moment, or emphasized a different element when playing live. They’re fusion of hardcore punk and doom metal to create this amazing concoction of southern sludge metal pairs perfectly with their intense live set. Performing with unmatched ferocity and precision, you almost get lost in the performance feeling as if you’re transcending the current plane of existence just to be immediately brought back to reality. Baroness are a one-of-a-kind live act that must be experienced in person to understand the reputation.