pallbearer

Some albums just strike one from the very first chord to the very last listen, all those years down the road. Pallbearer‘s Foundations of Burden still has the test of time to endure but for now it bears that unmistakable quality of excellence: from the first epic chords of ‘Worlds Apart‘ to the unbelievably touching lows of ‘Ashes’, each sound and reverberation firmly embeds itself into the listener’s ear. This album is something quite rare and yet always sought after and that is a musical creation that is at the same time complete and certain of itself but on the other hand, easily breaks down into disparate parts without losing any of its power.

This becomes immediately obvious with the second track, ‘Foundations’. The opening riff to this song encapsulates the album well: it’s doom-y to a degree that will please any fan but also features an interesting structure which keeps it groovy and catchy. This is most established by the intriguing balance between the two guitar tracks: while one maintains the heavier, fuzzier, main segment, the second draws around it with shriller notes. These embellishments banish the main bane of doom and stoner: repetitiveness and from that, boredom. By being both a key step in the album’s progression and an infectious piece by itself, ‘Foundations’ hints at that original point: this album both assembles and dismantles itself with deftness and skill.

The thread that grasps each track, ‘Foundations’ included, and elevates them into an album is the vocals. Among the different flavors and approaches presented in the instrumental section, the vocals are an emotional and aural focal point. Although they don’t lack variation, there is something constant in their presentation. That’s not to say they are simplistic or expected but somehow one feels they are the narrator of this journey or perhaps even the protagonist. This can be heard on the quiet track for this album, ‘Ashes’. Even though the approach to the music itself is much different, quiet and more soothing, something about the timbre of the vocals carries hints and references to earlier tracks.

Poised perfectly at the end, we find ‘Vanished’. This is, without a doubt, the best Pallbearer track to date. Unrelenting in its dedication to the slow and melancholic sound that is the band, it is the pan-ultimate expression of what is so appealing about them: even in its folds of sound and feedback, it is still eerily pristine. The bass here is the paragon: it reigns supreme in the background of the opening segment to the track and, while it is the first instrument to fade out at the end, it is its own resounding notes which somehow remain as the aftertaste, when the album is done.

The last quality that deserves mention is how little filler sounds this album utilizes. The tracks not mentioned here are by no means redundant. In fact, there is not a single moment on this album that is redundant or not unique in its own right. The knowledge that you are listening to the same riff in a particular song does nothing to dis-spell the sensation that each iteration is new and varied.  Every moment in Foundations of Burden is realized, executed and finalized with a singular focus on its own place, pulse and life. As a result, every corner, rise and dip shine with their own light and meaning, creating an incandescent and impressive whole.

Pallbearer – Foundations of Burden gets…

4.5/5

-EK

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