Critically acclaimed doom band, PALLBEARER, return on August 19 with Foundations of Burden (via Profound Lore Records). Since the release of their debut LP, Sorrow and Extinction, in 2012, the band has received overwhelming amounts of praise by fans and critics alike. Their sophomore effort has a lot to live up to, and I have to say that they certainly delivered. While maintaining that trademark sound discovered on their debut, this record sees PALLBEARER pushing their boundaries. Also worth noting is that the production value is a step up from its predecessor (not that it was bad to begin with).
The lead track, “Worlds Apart,” begins with an eerie guitar lead over a sludge filled, heavy rhythm. One of the first things I noticed was that Brett Campbell’s voice is much more prevalent in the mix. In seeing PALLBEARER live multiple times and listening to Sorrow and Extinction repetitively, I always took notice of how great his voice is. While partially buried in the mix on the debut, it is much more in the forefront now; and it’s for the best. Brett’s voice fits so perfectly with all of the music; it’s melodic, harmonious, and at times downright haunting. The over ten minute opus is quite the musical epic, featuring heavy and faster tempo riffs, slow and crystal clear guitar parts, a dual solo section, and as previously stated, some excellent vocal work. “Foundations” bursts forth with a strong, down tempo riff. The song builds upon it moving forward, as if the beginning serves as the foundation upon which the music builds. This track contains some of the most memorable vocal lines on the album.
“Watcher in the Dark” is my favorite song on the LP. It contains many changes in its ten minutes-plus musical landscape. The shifts in emotion and tempo are grasping at each turn. The composition goes through uplifting sections, as well as sorrowful ones. “Watcher in the Dark” provides a grand listening experience. “The Ghost I Used to Be” follows with a somber beginning, picking up flawlessly where the previous track dropped you abruptly. Brett’s singing on this number is the best I’ve heard from him. You can tell he is completely immersed in the words and feeling of this track. And the notes he sings! HE ABSOLUTELY NAILED IT ON THIS ONE! There is a section around the middle point where the band really picks up the pace with one of the catchiest riffs I’ve heard all year. PALLBEARER knocks it out of the park with this song.
The most unique listen on Foundations of Burden is “Ashes.” There is absolutely zero guitar or bass on it. Instead, it features a piano, minimal percussion, and a small amount of singing. While completely different from everything I’ve ever heard from PALLBEARER before, this track still suits them. When listening to it, the only thing that came to mind was that it sounds like what I imagine the peaceful state before death must feel like. It’s tranquil yet spine-chilling. The album comes to a close with “Vanished,” which is the longest song on the LP, at nearly 12 minutes. The band wastes no time bringing the doom back into focus on this one and it features the strongest guitar work on the record. The song structure reminds me of a mountain climb, in that it slowly crescendos to the peak around the middle, then slowly decrescendos to the end at the bottom of the mountain. In similar standing with the entire album, this closing track is rife with emotion.
PALLBEARER absolutely avoids the sophomore slump with Foundations of Burden. The guitar tones and drumming make them sound bigger than ever. Paired with Brett’s strengthened vocal presentation, the band truly shows they deserve to be among the doom elite with this album. If you enjoyed Sorrow and Extinction, you will absolutely love this record.
STANDOUT TRACKS: “Watcher in the Dark,” “The Ghost I Used to Be,” and “Vanished”
WRITTEN BY ERIC THE BULL