Tag Archives: Black Sabbath

Pallbearer – Foundations of Burden (Profound Lore)

Pallbearer group photo

Swampy

There have been lots of metal releases this year from acclaimed acts; Opeth, Mastodon, Triptykon and the like – and it’s clear that you can’t necessarily go faster or slower in pursuit of inspiration now that, to a large extent, extreme metal = metal. What you can do is what Profound Lore recording artists Pallbearer have done – by being memorable, by being individuals within a lineage which is what many of those illustrious names have also achieved. Pallbearer’s quality was obvious on their weighty, deathly reflective debut album Sorrow and Extinction back in 2012.

Since that debut there have been the usual yowls of dissent (‘hipster metal’ – groan) from the supposed keepers of metal’s purity but if Pallbearer have been listening you wouldn’t guess from it from the ornate grandeur of their new album, Foundations of Burden. Adding the deft skills of new drummer Mark Lierly and the studio nous of renowned producer Billy Anderson (High on Fire, Neurosis and more) has only improved the band. Another development is the greater prominence of guitarist Devin Holt’s vocal cords. He takes the mic for two of the most wandering, ruinous songs on the record, opener Worlds Apart and Watcher In The Dark songs that aren’t afraid to ditch the riffs, creating mood and intrigue before weaving the riffs back in.

As you would expect from a second album the palette Pallbearer are drawing from is more extensive, Rhodes piano and synthesizers are used to good prog rock effect. There are certain moments on this record that few other bands in the genre are going to reach for such as the echoey post-rock rattle and melancholic vocal harmonies on Foundations, the bass dropping out in The Ghost I Used To Be to expose singing guitars, and the keys and synths that create the textured stillness of Ashes. The lyrics, whilst remaining as resolutely doom laden as ever, combine with the music for nuances all the other doom-by-numbers Sabbath worshipers eschew.

Foundations of Burden is definitely a step forward from its predecessor and Pallbearer have clearly gained confidence from the success of Sorrow and Extinction here. To paraphrase the lyrics on the record’s closing song, Vanished: the band are “…always shifting. Always becoming.”

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Black Sabbath “Iron Man: The Best of Black Sabbath” Universal

Cover Black Sabbath Iron: Best Of

“Don’t believe the life you have/Will be the only one.” sang Ozzy Osbourne on 1973’s Sabbath Bloody Sabbath and this has certainly proved to be the case when considering the career of Black Sabbath. From blues-rock urchins named Earth, to coke addled stadium slayers via sackings, stone-henge stage props and years of in-fighting and inactivity the band have arrived in 2012 to a wave of popularity and the fruition of a long rumoured reunion of the original line-up (that inevitably led to one member being left outside – this time it’s Bill Ward). So given this higher than normal profile it’s surely time for a rag-tag ‘best of’ collection. This one ingeniously adds the prefix of Iron Man, no doubt down to the song’s inclusion on the hit Marvel film of the same name.

So far, so cynical; however, the motivation behind the release isn’t really the problem, it’s the content. Sabbath are the godfathers of heavy metal – no ifs, no buts – and as such their back catalogue is extremely well known, so the omissions and inclusions on this single disc compilation are highly important. For one to say that this Ozzy-era selection adequately covers the band’s first eight records is a lie. There are no tracks from Technical Ecstasy for a start…

What is here is the obvious and, let’s face it, the songs that had to be included: Black Sabbath, Paranoid, Iron Man and War Pigs are all present and correct. But they are drawn from only two albums and that doesn’t tell the whole story. Look at what’s missing: Planet Caravan, Into the Void, Supernaut, Sabbra Cadabra, Symptom of the Universe and, believe me, I could go on.

It could be that best ofs are simply a redundancy in the digital age of the perpetual playlist. But some bands need a compilation due to patchy albums or a wide but causal appreciation of their hits. Sabbath’s following isn’t up made of either of those types of people. There was a chance to do something creative but a cash-in is a cash-in. So it’s a 13 for the music but a considerably less appreciative score for the package.

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Conan “Monnos” Burning World Records

Monnos

Doom is a purer concept than fear; less flighty and transcendent – you can’t grow out of it or out-run it – it’s all about finality. That purity of concept and simplicity is translated into the achingly slow and strident output of doom titans Conan.

The word doom itself derives from the Anglo-Saxon ‘dōm’ for law or judgement. In the metal sense, it was codified by Black Sabbath with the dreaded first chords of Black Sabbath and the caustic darkness of Master of Reality. Liverpudlians Conan continue the lineage of great British bands on their latest long-player Monnos.

The atmosphere on Monnos is one of unremitting gloom; reflecting the sparse landscape depicted on the album’s cover. The guitar tone is so low and thick sounding almost like a dying growl and, when combined with the bass and drums rumbling back and forth transmits the inevitability of Conan’s inescapable negativity from opener Hawk As Weapon through to closer Invincible Throne.

The songs are crushing in their use of repetition, Battle in the Swamp nods with a heavily narcotic thrum while Grim Tormentor lives up to its title through its bloody minded power and use of scarified feedback. Elsewhere Headless Hunter shakes the castle walls with an immense glacial riff accented by precise cymbal hits from Paul O’Neil.

This sound is tempered by glints of glaring sunlight like on instrumental track Golden Axe that, while conjuring up thoughts of a cold, biting wind on an inescapably bright day slowly eroding a monument to a long forgotten idol, manages to vary the attack with it’s isolated opening guitar figure and muted percussion. Monnos is that intense and that’s just when considering the music – the lyrics are equally heavy. On Hawk As Weapon vocalist and guitarist Jon Davis sings with anguish that; “These skies are dead. They will destroy. Descending threat”.

Conan are slowly (how else) inching towards something very special and Monnos is the latest stone in their passageway to greatness. Don’t be a fool by missing out on this record.

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Three Eyes Left – Non Method as Method. No Limits as Limit

Three Eyes Left appear at first glance appear to be attempting to synthesise many ideas on this EP as they reference Zen mediation, Bruce Lee’s system of martial art forms – Jeet Kune Do – and employing non-method as method e.g. changing one element in your life in the hope of improving the whole. How these actually fit into the scheme of a half an hour stoner-psych EP isn’t entirely clear. For example, if they were trying to alter the stoner sound they’ve employed on three previous records it hasn’t worked as “Non Method as Method. No Limits as Limit” is as indebted to Black Sabbath as any other heavy toking, volume worshipping jam band. Discounting their vague grab-bag of philosophies however, allows for enjoyment of the meandering fuzz rock they offer on five unhurried, languid tracks.

The band cite their birth in the Cambrian Age and it’s certainly true that some of these riffs are as old as the earth itself and as fast moving as particularly lethargic tectonic plates. Like their fellow countrymen Ufomammut, Three Eyes Left take a patient, you could say inattentive, approach to riff building letting loooong down-tuned chords coagulate and then drift by on sparse drum patterns with bass player Andrea filling in the space like Geezer Butler did on “Paranoid”. This is especially evident on the heavily Sabbs influenced ‘Hand of Stone’.  ‘Hymn of the Riffian’ seeks out more of the same head nodding riff structures building into a barrage of troglodyte bashing. On ‘Luciferian As The Sun’ – another set of beliefs for the mixer – they bring the threads of the preceding songs together for a lolloping doom laden finale complete with five minute fade back in: the culmination of non method as method perhaps?

On the whole “Non Method as Method. No Limits As Limit” is unfortunately limited in scope taking few liberties with the template laid down in the early seventies by distortion happy ex-hippies but Three Eyes Left’s emulation is sound, the production is suitably unadorned by luxuries letting the three instruments breathe even if the songs themselves can get a little lost in the fug.

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