Foundations of Burden
25 August 2014
The rise of Pallbearer has been interesting to witness – from their humble beginnings and the demo of 2010, to the much anticipated debut record (Sorrow & Extinction) to the follow up that they are now on the cusp of releasing – the Arkansas-based doom band have followed a steady path of ever-increasing popularity without losing sight of what’s actually important – the music. 2012s Sorrow & Extinction was quite rightly hailed as one of the best records of the year.
That record was a call to arms, the sound of a band figuring out their place in the world and announcing their arrival. Pallbearer had a lot to live up to with their sophomore record and Foundations of Burden is a perfect example of a group learning from their past and moving forward – both in terms of the music and their own lives.
Foundations of Burden is work that sinks into every tract of emotion that as humans we are destined to experience and for all its sadness and desolation, there’s a trace of hope to be found within its walls. That glimmer of light isn’t completely obvious, but Foundations… isn’t the absolute lament that Sorrow & Extinction was. Where the debut was a journey of unending pain, Foundations… takes on the task of being a record that has allowed the band, its members and its music to grow, flourish and experience much more in life and in death. Take opening track ‘Worlds Apart’ in which the band say – “Where lays our heart of hearts defined / My darkness and your light, still yet remain entwined” – an exercise in knowing that with the valleys, peaks will appear. Pallbearer write intensely personal odes and it’s no-one’s place to pass comment on their subject matter, but it seems to be that Pallbearer have come to the realisation that it doesn’t matter what they do, sadness will always be present in life and on that front that have created an album which appreciates, rather than despises the trials that they have endured, and will endure in the future.
‘Worlds Apart’ begins the record on stately, doomed progressions that slowly work towards heavier, crunchier tones while taking in the soaring vocal of Brett Campbell (also guitar) – a voice that speaks so much of pain and has grown immensely since the inception of the band – who along with his bandmates, creates vivid images that sweep into view and bring texture and colour to the words sang. Here, the harmonic wonder of Pallbearer cascades over the beautiful landscapes of sound conjured by the band as bassist Joseph D.Rowland and guitarist Devin Holt lend their voices to moments of pure wonder, giving the track a larger lease of life and a presence that is liable to break even the hardest of hearts.
‘Foundations’ follows and drives ever closer to the core with a steady, crushing march towards heartbreak while the sorrowful, soaring melodies of ‘Watcher In The Dark’ turn further towards total collapse and ‘The Ghost I Used To Be’ completes the breakdown of the soul. Here Pallbearer lay down gorgeous, majestic rhythms that ebb and flow with a melancholic slant yet there’s a dynamism here that allows a slower section to be woven deeply into the fabric of the song and to bring to a halt the faster-paced passages that precede it without bringing the track to a dead stop, or making it seem cumbersome. It’s testament to Pallbearer’s willingness to take their time to create and to allow themselves the room to learn (producer Billy Anderson has a lot to be thanked for in this respect) in order to lay down such expressive music.
‘Ashes’ comes from out of nowhere and while it’s the shortest and most noticeably straightforward song on the record, it’s by no means one to be ignored. The short, bittersweet refrain is a light yet powerful moment on a record that could have been overwhelmed by its own weight and its inclusion before the monumental closing sounds of ‘Vanished’ is a stroke of beauty. The contrasting momentum is magical to bear witness to and Pallbearer work shades of grief and the subsequent hope that must follow into the twisting vines of guitar and deep, soulful vocal. The tangible burden of the song is felt throughout but as evidenced during the album, Pallbearer are a little more focused on the afterlife and its effects on those left behind and in its closing moments Foundations of Burdens offers a sincere, beautiful supplication to the hereafter – “Arising from nothing / The short dance of existing / We’re always shifting / And always becoming”. May Pallbearer never stop becoming their destiny.
For Fans Of: Black Sabbath, Warning
Standout Tracks: Foundations, The Ghost I Used To Be, Ashes