Words About Music
Pallbearer “Foundations of Burden”
Two years ago, Arkansas doom metal quartet Pallbearer debuted with one of the best albums of that year or any other year, “Sorrow and Extinction.” The band received acclaim for their creative and soaring take on a notoriously dark and unfriendly genre. They remained accessible and outwardly likable even in the midst of 10-minute songs. Now they’re back with an even more raucous and expansive sophomore LP, “Foundations of Burden.” This album is a 6-song 55-minute cosmic journey through life, death, and rebirth. What could’ve been a sophomore slump turns out to be one of the very best in its genre.
Pallbearer have been compared constantly to the godfather band of doom metal, Black Sabbath. And I understand the comparison. The band plays slow, heavy tunes and vocalist Brett Campbell has a nasal Ozzy tone to his voice. But even in the golden period of the band’s first three albums, Black Sabbath didn’t write anything as intelligent as the music Pallbearer makes. In fact, I’d be more content to compare Pallbearer to Boris, a Japanese experimental doom metal trio with an excellent ear for melody. Pallbearer write riffs so immaculate it’s a wonder they hadn’t been written before. “Foundations of Burden,” much like Deafheaven’s 2013 game-changing opus “Sunbather,” borrows a bit from post-rock and shoegazing genres, but at the end of the day this is a definite doom metal album.
A notable quality about this album is that it could be instrumental and it would still be a shining achievement of 2014’s metal landscape. Fortunately, the band opts to include vocalists that are a welcome change to doom metal. I’m so used to hearing gruff or screamed or howled vocals in bands like Sleep and Neurosis and Electric Wizard that hearing a clean vocalist makes me want to stand up and applaud this band for what they do. Sleep may have an album called “The Holy Mountain,” but no doom metal band commands images of Jodorowsky films quite like Pallbearer.
On “Foundations of Burden,” the band takes doom metal to new heights by making it almost psychedelic. There’s a very spacious quality to the music that is very apparent in the lyrics as well. “Foundations of Burden” sounds like a crew of astronauts losing their mind in deep space. If the last 20 minutes of “2001: A Space Odyssey” was directed by Harmony Korine, this is the album that would soundtrack that sequence. This album is as much a visual experience as it is an aural one, so keep that in mind when you decide to check out the best heavy metal album of the year. Throughout the album’s 55 minutes the band calls back the mysterious darkness of the ’60s, ’70s rock melody, ’80s and ’90s nihilism, and the technological fixation of our current society. It’s a massive and surprisingly catchy album that’s fit for metal purists and casual metal listeners alike.
SCORE – 8.9
FAVORITE TRACKS – World Apart, Foundations, Watcher in the Dark, The Ghost I Used to Be, Vanished
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