Album Review: Foundations of Burden by Pallbearer
Posted by RiffRaff
I’m a happy-go-lucky kind of guy, often to a fault. I always try to keep a smile on my face and keep talking/thinking about negativity to a minimum. I like things that make me happy, make me laugh, and are over-all optimistic in nature. Yet, my preferred genre of music is metal. A genre popularly known for its darkness, pessimism, misanthropy, obsession with mortality, etc. Of course, any well refined metal head will tell you that the vast majority of our music has much more complex, introspective, and positive themes, and it’s quite true, still there is a lot of themes and music to be found on the darker sided of the scale. And I love it just the same.
“But why do I love it?” I’ve asked myself quite a few times during my near lifelong obsession with the genre. In their opening lines of their latest release, Foundations of Burden, Pallbearer sum it up quite concisely and poetically:
The dark encloses all
Our works would be but ash
No knowledge of the time that crushes love to dust
Or the life that’s frozen deep within our veins
The light burns out our eyes
And turns each of us to ash
Our hearts, too hard to ever learn to feel
And mouths, laid open, deep in silent song
Basically, as with all in a healthy life, it’s all about balance. Yin and Yang. If I didn’t balance my optimism with something, enter metal music, I’d descend into a cotton-candy fueled nightmare where nothing happy would make me feel happy. But more importantly, and where the central theme of Foundations of Burden lies, is without something to bring you down, you can never rebuild. One needs to examine the things that generate negativity in their lives and replace them with something that lightens the soul as well as doing the inverse for the things that make us happy, lest their potency no longer satiate and numbs us. Crush & rebuild, in & out, up & down.
To balance their absolutely unique and crushing debut Sorrow and Extinction, which was near exclusively focused on mortality and creating some of the most thundering, claustrophobic doom ever, Pallbearer have taken a step in a different direction for this new release. Both thematically and sonically. Of course, they haven’t given up that crushing sound that landed them on the focus of many metal radars a few years back, but what they have done is open up that sound. Gone is that claustrophobic feeling and in its place is this kind of melancholic, airy feel. Synths add dynamic and guitar solos soar like ravens. The plodding drums still keep a methodical pace, but a wider arrangement of patterns and grooves allow for a much more engaging listen. The vocals, while very ‘Ozzy on the track Snowblind’-y still, now contain wider range and dare I say more emotion, which goes hand in hand with the even more self-reflecting lyrical content. And that guitar tone, just wow! Basically it is the best doom tone my ears have ever been graced with. When it’s riffing and droning it hits like a hammer and when it goes into melodies and solos it perfectly commands you to get sucked into its warmth and nestle beside it. All of this tweaking and rebuilding on the instrumental side of the record pretty much forces you to engage yourself and get all introspective with the lyrics and vocals.
Literally (well, literally in my opinion 😉 ) every single track on here is doom metal perfection. Thing is, with the funeral style of doom, things get boring quick, and while sonically Sorrow and Extinction was shattering, at times it got a bit to slow and boring for me to listen to when I wasn’t in the perfect mood for it. Not here with the songwriting of Foundations. At all times, even during the slowest, droniest parts, there is always something interesting going on. A cool drum beat counters a guitar drone riff, some synths add proggy interludes and transitions, vocal melodies get varied and hooky when needed, and the pace goes from plodding to a semi-jog from song to song (and even within each song). To put things simply, everything this album does, is what I consider funeral doom done right.
So, with music and themes that range from uplifting to depressing to always thought inducing and some outstanding production by one of today’s top producers, Billy Anderson (Agalloch, Cormorant, Neurosis), Foundations of Burden is not only the must buy doom release of the year, it is also one of the best releases of any genre this year and easily the best record of Pallbearer’s still blooming career. No sophomore slump for these guys. Peace Love and Metal!!!! 5/5
Foundations of Burden will be released August 19th, 2014 through Profound Lore Records. To order click here. Give Pallbearer a ‘like’ on Facebook and fix your doom back catalog with their debut record here.