You can always tell when a sub-genre of metal is growing in popularity. The pretenders and bandwagon riders start to come out in full force. We saw it with thrash, death metal, black metal, etc. You name it there have been instances when a genre’s rise in popularity is proportionately tied to the sheer volume of mediocre bands churning out paint-by-numbers replicas of their heroes. While playing paint-by-numbers metal might be better than, say, cranking up that 90’s alt rock cover band, it can still be a trial for fans to wade through tripe to find the gems of a genre.
Doom metal has hit that point of critical mass. As the decade lurches forward the sheer volume of sludge-infused rumblings from across the globe has grown exponentially, often tied directly to the re-burgeoning stoner/occult rock sound. Thankfully the cream always rises to the top and in this case that ascending phoenix takes the form of Arkansas’ Pallbearer. On the heels of a spectacular debut album, Pallbearer have once again graced us with an album, Foundations of Burden, which will separate them from the doom metal pack.
Pallbearer have always been an outfit that slips between the folds of time and space, their sound relying equally on progressive elements not often explored in doom circles, and paying homage to the pioneers of the genre who played doom metal when doom metal wasn’t all that popular. Bands like Trouble, Saint Vitus, and Candlemass are clearly in this band’s collective vinyl collection but what tribute they do pay is always done with one foot in the future, one eye towards creating their own sonic imprint.
That imprint is ever present on tracks like “Ashes” and “Vanished”. The final two tracks on the album begin with a stunningly beautiful interlude, an engaging, somber piece that crosses dangerously into post-rock territory before it gives way like clouds slowly engulfing blue skies. It’s followed by the album closer which is a perfect example of the juxtaposition of the old and new that Pallbearer have perfected. It’s a monumental piece in multiple movements both literally and figuratively, like a massive beast roaming the Earth looking for a place to finally lay down and rest its weary head for the final time. Album opener, “Worlds Apart”, is another fantastic example of how to take the music of your heroes and make it your own sound, your own contribution to a world wrought with poseurs and pretenders to the throne. It’s a ten-minute riff extravaganza, amplified by phenomenal vocals and built on a foundation strong enough to support its weight from beginning to end and through multiple listens.
This album has proven again why Pallbearer are one of the best doom metal bands in the world and it’s not even close. Foundations of Burden is out now via Profound Lore Records. You can experience the track “The Ghost I Used To Be” at the Profound Lore website.