Release Date: Aug 19, 2014
Record label: Profound Lore
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Heavy Metal
If they gave out Grammys for real music, Pallbearer's second record would get 100. Pitchfork should give it a 9000. There simply aren't enough Ns. Sure, this is hyperbole, but on the strength of the Arkansas outfit's new super-heavy slab - and with bandwagon-jumpers already hyping the new Electric Wizard LP - doom metal is poised to have its moment.
Every year in heavy music, there seems to be one album that stands out from the pack and dominates the conversation: Liturgy's Aesthetica, Baroness' Yellow & Green, Deafheaven's Sunbather, and so on. This year, somewhat strangely, that album appears to be Pallbearer's Foundations of Burden. I say "Strangely," not because there's anything wrong with the record (in fact, quite the opposite is true), but because those other records were so shocking and new.
Few debut full-lengths generate the kind of response that Arkansas-based doom outfit Pallbearer were able to garner with 2012's Sorrow and Extinction, a towering and emotionally devastating tribute to inevitable mortality. With riffs like mountain chains and a heart full of tar, the record roiled in gigantic agony that somehow, despite itself, also managed to let in a few, tremulous moments of light. Their follow-up effort, Foundations of Burden has chosen to hone in on those moments of hope and illumination, in an effort that is even more emotionally ambitious an undertaking, and all the more wounding for its beauty.
When underground metal bands appeal to non-metal listeners, it's often because they've found a way to tweak, expand, or do away with genre conventions. Outside of iconic heavy classic rock or shiny mainstream metal, this doesn't mean the music is easier to listen to as a result—there's the collaborative art-drone of Sunn O))), as unlikely a crossover band as any, and Deafheaven's blend of shoegaze guitar textures and screamo/black metal vocals. It's rare that a contemporary group remains entirely in the metal world and still manages to find an audience outside of it, but the vintage-doom players in Pallbearer have done just that.
Though they don’t fully cop to the doom metal label, Pallbearer’s website is called PallbearerDoom.com and they play tremendously heavy, guitar-based music. But the thing about the Little Rock four-piece (now featuring new drummer Mark Lierly) is that they deal in dualities, contradictions. On Foundations of Burden, the follow-up to 2012’s debut Sorrow and Extinction, Pallbearer continue to build monstrous riffs that turn out to be gentle giants, with sheer beauty imbuing every guitar layer.
If Pallbearer’s music could be constructed physically, the architecture would be astounding. I’m talking about the kind of ornate, towering gothic cathedrals, castles, and monestaries most people only encounter either backpacking across Europe or in fairy tales. But rather than making up the brick & mortar, the quartet’s part in these colossal structures is far more aural.
With the release of their phenomenally well received debut album Sorrow And Extinction in 2012, Pallbearer set the bar high for themselves. If there’s a basis for burden on the band it most surely begins with that album and just how to follow it up. Many bands struggle to repeat the vibrancy and energies of their initial flourishes, but with Foundations Of Burden, Pallbearer take a step forward and, if anything, surpass expectations.
Expectations run high for Foundations of Burden, Pallbearer's sophomore full-length. On their 2012 debut, Sorrow and Extinction, the Arkansas doom quartet established itself by bringing something back to the genre that had been missing -- at least partially -- since Black Sabbath: innate lyricism and dynamics rather than simply volume-centric, plodded-out variations on A-minor. Produced by Billy Anderson (Sleep, Agalloch), Foundations of Burden expands upon its predecessor's approach.
Due to its dynamics, metal bands are generally divided into two categories: those that hit you like a jackhammer, and those that hit like a steam roller. Little Rock, Arkansas’ Pallbearer snugly fit into the latter category. Their heralded debut album Sorrow and Extinction was the 45-minute aural equivalent of a slow-moving lava flow. Pallbearer has proven to a be a band that requires a patient ear.
There’s much to love about heavy metal culture, but the eagerness to be pleased, of those who comprise metal fandom, is one of its most lovable qualities. Flip through a couple issues of Decibel and you might find yourself hard pressed to spot a review that scores within the 50th percentile, let alone more than a handful of 70ths. As an internet critic, this is nearly unfathomable.
The radical yet inevitable way Deafheaven’s sophomore album, Sunbather, has remade black metal into something richly emotive, melodic, and transcendent is one of the heavy metal’s big success stories of the past couple of years. But the Arkansas outfit Pallbearer has done something similarly profound with the subgenre of doom. The group’s 2012 debut, Sorrow And Extinction, topped many year-end lists, and it created much anticipation for its follow-up.
Pallbearer Foundations of Burden (Profound Lore) Dinosaur doom needn't sound the same all day, every day. Pallbearer gets this, calmly demonstrating its slow, mournful mastery on second slab Foundations of Burden. The Little Rock, Ark., quartet avoids the sinister reverberation of Black Sabbath and progeny, instead trucking in melancholic self-absorption, majestic tunesmithery, and guitar tones baked hot and fresh.
Five years ago, I proclaimed Mastodon as the “most aptly named band in all of music.” That was when they made metal records. Now, they swim in the current of radio rock and no longer deserve such a title. Enter a new contender: Pallbearer. The job of a Pallbearer is, literally and figuratively, to move forward in the presence of death.
The miserable youth slumped under a stone archway on the cover of Into The Depths Of Sorrow by Solitude Aeternus would love Pallbearer's second album, Foundations Of Burden. As opener 'Worlds Apart' surges forth, it's crystal clear just how classical Pallbearer are in their approach to doom metal. The immediate point of comparison with Solitude Aeternus is the voice of Brett Campbell, recalling the high reaches and range of Robert Lowe.