Pallbearer are definitively one of the more promising bands to emerge from the doom metal circuit in recent years. The band’s debut album was enticing and engaging in its delicate fusion of slow-burning melancholy and melodic atmosphere, but with musicianship and a vocal performance as impressive as was on that record, no cynical expectation could be made for the brilliance of latest album “Foundations of Burden”. From the opening moments of the Gothic, mammoth-heavy ‘Worlds Apart’ to the closing, atmospheric sounds of ‘Vanished’, almost everything about Pallbearer’s second album is spot on.
The musicianship on “Foundations of Burden” is perhaps the band’s direct selling point, and so it is proved with consistent heaviness on every song save the softer interlude ‘Ashes’. Opener ‘Worlds Apart’ wastes no time in giving us one memorable riff after the next, slowly and gradually building up to a mesmerizing mid-section which showcases the best of Campbell’s harmonic vocal tones and his own crushing guitar sound. The guitar work proves both melodic and overbearing as , particularly towards the end, heaviness takes a prominent role in creating one of the more grandiose outros of the album already. However, even when the songs take on a quieter, more ambient style, the instrumental performance manages to adjust itself perfectly to match each and every mood. Aside from the obvious softness of ‘Ashes’, both ‘Foundations’ and beautifully dark ‘The Ghost I used to Be’ end up portraying an image of menace, even when the sombre rhythm section suggests otherwise. The former’s second half battles with conflicting emotions as drums thunder along in a rampage and the tremendous co-operation between guitar and bass work offer a lighter sound, whereas the latter features one of the most memorable and hummable main riffs you’ll likely here all year. Yet what remains most important is how musicianship reflects particular moods, and in that respect, Pallbearer’s music is flawless.
The vocal delivery in “Foundations of Burden”, whilst for the most part not quite as striking as the instrumentation, has spectacular moments. These moments are better portrayed when the instrumentation seems to take a step back and offers the listener a break from all the intensity and powerful atmosphere. ‘Ashes’ is the one song which develops this technique perfectly and keeps it consistent, whereas the mid-section of ‘Foundations’ and the latter half of closer ‘Vanished’ both revel in soft yet still melancholic overtones, Campbell’s dark-tinged vocal effects pouring forth from the speakers. Naturally, there is one song which doesn’t quite match the rest in terms of quality, but remains outstanding in parts. That song is ‘Watcher in the Dark’, which has less of an experimental, melancholic edge but is just as memorable with repeated listens, the ominous guitar work and rumbling bass rhythms offering a more sinister sound as a result.
What we have here is one of the finest metal albums of 2014, and undoubtedly is Pallbearer’s career-defining moment. “Foundations of Burden” takes the ideas of its predecessor and manifests that sound into one with more soul as well as more musical prominence. The idea that we can get this impression from a mere six songs may come across as a bit over-hyped, but it’s a case of listening to the album and for some, letting it grow over time. On this evidence, Pallbearer’s future seems very promising indeed.
Released: 19th August
1. Worlds Apart
3. Watcher in the Dark
4. The Ghost I used to Be