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Pallbearer : Foundations Of Burden

Drift away with Pallbearer's sophomore release, and you won't want to come back...

Remember a time before Anathema decided they were Pink Floyd, or Paradise Lost thought they were Depeche Mode, before realising they weren't? It seems Pallbearer do. Their music has a wonderfully organic, self-assured quality, with perhaps a touch of innocence, harking back to those early Doom releases on Peaceville and Earache. Doom it may well be. But Pallbearer are also 'Heavy Metal', in the way that My Dying Bride, Candlemass, and Down are 'Heavy Metal', and it is this thin strand of traditional heavy music running through them like a hidden chromosome that will stand Pallbearer in very good stead should longevity decide to bear their name.

Unlike some of the aforementioned however, bands don't necessarily have to change that radically in order to survive. Not everyone is going to release a 'Load' or a 'Turbo' before trying to back-pedal to former glories, with varying degrees of success. Sooner or later though, it seems most metal bands get a demon on each shoulder shouting polarizing opinions at them.

In the wake of this, their second album, Pallbearer could now well be faced with a similarly harsh dichotomy in terms of how to proceed, although I feel whatever they decide to do will be pretty damn good and may well see them sedately yet triumphantly taking their music and perhaps some of this, most beloved genre, out into the wider world. Pallbearer are a bit special. If you're on this website though, you know that right?

And so what of this second album? Well, let's get this out of the way. If you liked 'Sorrow and Extinction' there's no reason you'll dislike 'Foundations of Burden'. If anything, you may well prefer it. It's all just a little bit better, which, given their debut, is quite something. Thankfully, the lilting emotion is still here, as is the signature riffing and melody, along with the dreamlike quality of the first album - but having said all that, everything here is a touch more open, slightly more approachable this time round. It's a Pallbearer album, but a tad more so.

The first thing to be noticed is the production. Billy Anderson (who includes Eyehategod, Sleep, Buzzov'en, and Cathedral on his impressive resume) has helped craft a record which allows all the aspects of Pallbearers' sound to shine through without losing any of their soulful mystique. Sure it's somewhat cleaner this time round, refreshing even, but this is Pallbearer laying themselves that much barer, being that much braver. 'Soul' is a word I keep coming back to with this band. 'Beautiful' would be another, on the subject of which let's talk about the vocals. I said earlier that everything is a little bit better here. I lied. The vocals are appreciably improved. Clearer in the mix and with several of the band members contributing to the textures, their haunting intonations help to guide us through the light and shade of each track: the delicate melodies and subtle harmonies created throughout each piece at times lifting the hairs on the forearms. Truly stunning.

Musically as well, you can't really fault it. There's a strident air of majesty about it all, but with the honourable introspection of the hermit going about his isolated business in deference to all that passes about him, as opposed to any snooty, regal arrogance. If there's a slight innocence in Pallbearer's music then there's a real maturity in the delivery, technique and arrangements of the songs. Each track leaves you wanting more rather than looking at your watch after a few minutes or fidgeting for the next song. In this way, with five of the six songs over the ten minute mark, 'Foundations of Burden' is a truly remarkable achievement. Of course there are the lyrics, artwork and history of the band but that's something for each and every one of us to come to in our own time and make of what we will. So, if you haven't already...

One gets the feeling that Pallbearer are a band on the verge of something. A band that has the capacity to glide smoothly into the wider conciousness by virtue of their art alone, as several of the greats in the world of metal have done with their third records. Thus, doing so they may well become a flagship band for their chosen medium. Although, as I write this I'm thinking of Opeth after 'Blackwater Park' came out, raising heads, commanding respect, loyalty and devotion, free to keep doing as they choose, on their terms, in their world.

But before Pallbearer do all that, get a decent set of headphones, turn the lights out and lie down to listen to 'Foundations of Burden'. You won't want to come back.

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Reviewer's rating: 9/10


Tracklist :
1. Worlds Apart
2. Foundations
3. Watcher In The Dark
4. The Ghost I Used To Be
5. Ashes
6. Vanished

Duration : Approx. 55 minutes

Visit the Pallbearer bandpage.

Reviewed on 2014-09-14 by Matt Halsey
Vanha - Black Lion
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