Monday, August 18, 2014

Pallbearer - Foundations of Burden

Some of you may recall that in 2012, Pallbearer's debut album was heralded by many as the best doom record of the year. It didn't quite earn that distinction in my mind, losing out to the likes of Evoken and Ahab, but it still made my year-end top 10 list. Well now in a year that has not seen so many powerhouse doom releases, Pallbearer have given us their second full-length effort, Foundations of Burden.

The same general realm of slow, heavy, stoner-tinged doom is still the base of operations in this record, but the overall feel seems to have shifted somewhat. This time around, the band has cast back even more to the traditional doom core mechanic of Black Sabbath worship, for one thing. This is most notable in the vocals, which are really aiming for early Ozzy territory. The plentiful psychedelic guitar solos are also dripping in '70s fuzz, further adding to the retro feel of the release.

Simultaneously, Pallbearer have made a move into more grand, atmospheric compositions on this record than anything they had on their relatively straight-forward debut. Piano passages, courtesy of bassist Joseph Rowland, are perhaps the most obvious manifestation of this new dimension in their material. There are also more sparse, atmospheric passages in general, creating a perfect organic balance between the slow crushing heaviness and quiet, somber moments.

Overall, while I associated their last record more with Electric Wizard than anything else, this album reminded me more of Saint Vitus cross-bred with Solitude Aeturnus. It's got the distinctly traditional roots and vocal style of the former, but the prettier passages, drifting atmosphere, and generally more epic feel of the latter.

With this release, Pallbearer have taken a terrific debut release and used it as a stepping stone to even greater heights. The band could have easily just continued on their course and carved out a comfortable place for themselves as a strong doom outift. Instead, they've created what is so far the best doom album I've heard all year and cemented their place beside Evoken as the most compelling current doom band in the world.

Grade: A

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