When Pallbearer released their debut album, Sorrow and Extinction, I was stunned. No matter how good their 2010 demo was, there was no way you could be prepared for an album of the caliber of Sorrow and Extinction. And of course the expectations for the sophomore album of the doom metal act are now much higher, but they are still able to meet them. In Foundations of Burden, Pallbearer just top their game, taking their music a step forward.
Even though five out of the six songs of Foundations of Burden are long in duration and they are heavy as fuck, they still somehow remain easily accessible. The heavy riffs of “Worlds Apart” have sorrowful leads sitting on top of them, making the whole process more easy listening, without the band losing any of its weight. Pallbearer is able to put so much emotion in this album; it is just hard to believe. There are cases when the band uses a more epic approach as is the case with “The Ghost I Used To Be,” while at the same time the lead guitar work is just so painfully expressive, giving a more personal tone to the track. In a much more subtle way, Pallbearer utilizes these moving melodies in other places, such as the ending part of “Vanished.” They even go as far as putting in the album an actual ballad! “Ashes,” the shortest track of the album, sees the band using minimal instrumentation and implementing the magic sound of a Rhodes keyboard to offer what is probably the most unpredictable moment of the album. Some people will like it, some will hate it. Personally I think it works quite nicely and it prepares you somehow for the ritualistic vibe of the closing track, “Vanished.”
The amount of effort that the band has put in their guitar work is just unbelievable, with all those different guitar layers interacting with each other in the album. The result is that the band creates a very dense background, but they also manage to sound big and epic. Just a listen to “Watcher in The Dark” and “Vanished” will reveal all that. Especially in the case of “Watcher in The Dark,” Pallbearer just throw in guitar leads and solos without losing their focus at any one point. And when they throw in there the clean guitar bits, it is simply amazing how many ideas this band can come up with.
Another surprise that comes with the release is the vocal performance. Do not get me wrong, I believe that Brett Campbell’s performance on Sorrow and Extinction was great, really working for the band with that Ozzy Osbourne vibe. But it seems like his voice has mutated now and I cannot help myself from hearing a bit of Geddy Lee in there as well. As you can imagine the results are working perfectly and his voice carries so much emotion and manages to pierce through the music like rays of light. Especially his performance in “The Ghost I Used to Be” is phenomenal, and in “Watcher in The Dark” when combined with the clean guitar and effects is on another level. The use of backing vocals is also a nice addition in Foundations of Burden, especially standing out in “The Ghost I Used To Be” with their more aggressive tone contrasting Campbell’s melodic voice.
Alongside all that the band has also found places to explore their psychedelic influences, with the ending of “Worlds Apart” giving a quite trippy vibe as the guitar solo leads the track to its finale. Another such example is the clean guitar bit in the title track, especially when it ties in to the lead guitar bit, leading to a very sweet ending. On top of that of course, Pallbearer also throw in some more classic rock moments, especially the rhythm section in “The Ghost I Used to Be” can bring to mind some of the greatest rock albums released back in the ‘70s
When Sorrow and Extinction came out, I feared what the next step would be for Pallbearer. Their debut album was such an amazing release and thought the band would just try to rehash their ideas. But in Foundations of Burden, Pallbearer revealed that they are still pushing their music and are exceeding themselves.
9.5 / 10
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