ALBUM REVIEW: Pallbearer ‘Foundations Of Burden’

Pallbearer

PALLBEARER
‘Foundations Of Burden’
Profound Lore (Released 19 August 2014)
8/10

Money, money, money. It’s clear from the opening moments of Pallbearer’s follow-up to their magnificent 2012 debut ‘Sorrow And Extinction’ that the band has been given a bigger budget and more studio this time round. This is a slicker, shinier version of the album that saw the Oregon trad doom outfit win unexpected but richly deserved mainstream acclaim.

Produced by Billy ‘Who Else?’ Anderson, ‘Foundations Of Burden’ is much brighter and cleaner sounding than their last effort, and is packed with multitudinous guitar layers, synthesizers and multiplied vocal harmonies. In 2014, their sound is more rounded; it’s not half as heavy as two years ago, but what it misses in terms of raw, unadulterated power it makes up for in complexity and technical enterprise.

Pallbearer have pushed themselves musically and creatively, concocting a series of unusual, hooky riffs and long, twisting compositions that are rarely anything but fascinating. The stirring vocals of Brett Campbell have become more controlled and sophisticated, and are supplemented with dreamlike backing from his band mates. Behind the immense doom metal is the gentle influence of Rainbow and classic rock, as Pallbearer subtly move away from the overarching misery of their previous album towards a more personal, explorative approach.

The brighter production adds to an undercurrent of hopefulness amid the gloom, and there are even upbeat, uptempo sections. There is also a song, ‘Ashes’, that sounds like a dreamy doom version of Agnes Obel, and this is where things can start to feel a little contrived. ‘Ashes’ is so cute and polite that it seems Pallbearer are in danger of straying too far from the path of doom.

Burdened with hype and hope, the band has been given a platform and at times their effort to impress is evident. They have afforded great consideration to what will work well live, but it is likely that the songs fans will look forward to hearing will still come from the band’s 2012 breakthrough release. For all their multi-layered delicacy and inventiveness, the songs on ‘Foundations Of Burden’ are not as impactful or memorable as those original recordings.

This is a seriously impressive follow-up album that will surely win Pallbearer many more fans both in mainstream and underground circles. It may not be as dynamic as their debut, perhaps because it has been so professionally packaged, but it is very exciting to see a vintage doom metal band being allowed an opportunity to demonstrate the genre’s musical scope to a wide audience.

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