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Pallbearer - Foundations of Burden Award winner

Foundations of Burden
by H.P. Buttcraft at 26 August 2014, 8:17 PM

I have been excited about reviewing PALLBEARER’s latest album for this entire season, maybe even the entire year since I heard the Arkansas sludge/doom metal monks returned to the studio late last year. If you haven’t gotten a chance to listen to their debut album “Sorrow & Extinction”, stop reading this review immediately and go buy it. Notice I didn’t say “listen to it” because it is truly an album worthy of your purchase and subsequent enjoyment. It was revered as one of the best albums of 2012 by major publications like National Public Radio, Pitchfork and Spin.

But PALLBEARER is back with “Foundations of Burden”. With the recognition from years of touring and promoting the same five songs from their first album, the band went back to the studio with a ton of awesome new equipment with a mission. If you’ve ever heard of the term “…got some big shoes to fill,” perhaps that would be an inappropriate way to describe the expectations that were placed on PALLBEARER after releasing such a critically successful record. I think PALLBEARER came into this sophomore record with a complete lack of intimidation.

The record starts off with the song “Worlds Apart”, which encompasses most of the great elements about “Sorrow & Extinction” all in one song. PALLBEARER’s trademark crushing heaviness flows through your speakers within mere seconds, the soaring, infectious lead solos and the instrumental outro that has a tempo as slow as tree sap dripping down the side of a tree.

The vulnerable and ethereal singing voice of frontman Brett Campbell is the real noticeable change on “Foundations of Burden”, featuring an unrestrained passion in the singing melodies that perhaps he coyly held back from their debut album because his voice on “Foundations of Burden” is so much stronger than before. The production and clarity on these vocals shimmer and sparkle intensely over the sludgy bass and drop-tuned guitars. “Worlds Apart” takes the completed portrait originated from their previous album and expands upon itself three-dimensionally. You may get an overwhelming sense of relief when you start playing “Foundations of Burden” if you’ve been holding your breath about this anticipated release like I have since 2012.

Foundations” starts to clarify a motif on “Foundations of Burden” that PALLBEARER wanted to write these new six tracks in the same feelings of despair and wickedness that you could hear momentarily on the last album on the track “Devoid of Redemption.” The majority of the tracks from “Sorrow & Extinction”, excluding “Devoid of Redemption”, had ascending movements and verses that were beautiful and melodic. But with songs like “Foundations” and “Watcher in the Dark,” some attention has been shifted from the melody into atmosphere with the beats getting slower and slower. The uplifting yet gravitational feelings PALLBEARER provided on their older songs has certainly been dialed down and the feelings of darkness and loneliness have certainly been galvanized. That’s not entirely a bad thing but its certainly showing the audience a new side of PALLBEARER that may take some time to warm up to.

This is perhaps the biggest and only critique of “Foundations of Burden”. For a melodic doom metal band, Pallbearer has shed off a lot of the melody for songs like “Foundations” and “Watcher in the Dark.” This metamorphosis from melodic to a sludgy doom metal tone is not a poor decision that was made but it does make the formerly mentioned tracks feel out of place alongside songs like “The Ghost I Used to Be” and the album’s heartfelt closers “Ashes” and “Vanished.

Having said that, I have to say that “The Ghost That I Used to Be” is going down on record as being one of the best single songs I have heard this year. When PALLBEARER previewed this single before the album was released, it was everything that made me fall in love PALLBEARER in the first place. I loved how the band ventured into writing riffs at a faster rhythm. And the vocals are nothing short of pure, distilled talent. The song’s main lead guitar lick rears its head three times in the song’s ten-minute length, creating a wonderful linear composition which really makes this song stand out above all of the other great tracks on this record and is truly memorable.

I have been giving a lot of thought into what other bands people might recognize to help my reader decide ‘if you like band-X,-Y & -Z, then you’ll really be into PALLBEARER.’ Honestly, though, I can only say that if you absolutely, positively need your metal to be fast with a blitzkrieg of double-kick drumming and loud, angry vocals, PALLBEARER is probably not going to be your cup of tea, and more than likely, you’ll be bored by them. But if you really enjoy atmosphere, moving, and poignant music that doesn’t conform to the expectations of what a metal band should sound like, definitely make it a priority to listen to “Foundations of Burden”.

4 Star Rating

1. World’s Apart
2. Foundations
3. Watcher in the Dark
4. The Ghost I Used to Be
5. Ashes
6. Vanished
Joseph D. Rowland – Bass
Devin Holt – Guitars
Brett Campbell – Guitars, Vocals
Mark Lierly – Drums
Record Label: Profound Lore Records


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