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.”