Pallbearer Lays the Many Personalities of Doom Into Their Foundations of Burden
D. O. O. M. Do it or don’t. Crush spines and spirits under immeasurable psychic weight or do us all a favor and exit stage left. Pronto. Don’t faff around with hippy-dippy mega-fuzz and drugged-out rock beats sloshed over with blues leads that remind us that you could really shred if you wanted to. Doom should feel like a slow sinking through a substance dark and viscous, sweet and deadly, while meat hooks rigged up to tow chains tug your resigned flesh down, down, down.
Those rather inflexible demands have turned Pallbearer into a bit of a conundrum for me. Crushing? Check. Dark, viscous, sweet, deadly? Quadruple check. But then, mega-fuzz? Also check. And then there are Brett Campbell’s clean chanted vocals, those semi-tonal near-sung melodies that don’t make me want to shroud myself in sulfur-choked slag or stab out the throat of some pitiless deity. (Don’t let anyone tell you, as I heard, that Campbell projects qualities similar to Patrick Walker’s voice. This is not at all true, and can be disappointingly misleading for fans of Walker’s work with 40 Watt Sun and Warning.) These four Little Rockers have found a way to recombine the elements of doom’s different schools and found a character that speaks to all acolytes of mournful hymns.
Devoted fans of Sorrow and Extinction are warmly greeted from the very beginning, with ascending lead of “Worlds Apart” that kicks off exactly the mellow doom ride you were hoping for. Skeptics hoping for a less immediate descent into the obvious, though, should skip straight to penultimate track “Ashes.” The whispery Rhodes intro and spine to the song undulate alongside the trance-inducing sung verses and perfectly complement the far-off chord distortion that lurks in the short song’s second half. “Ashes” underscores the band’s compositional prowess and invites listeners to examine the other tracks from the same emotionally rich perspective. It reforms “Vanished” – whose vocal melody would fit snugly into the end of an Agalloch epic – from being just another mucky trudge into a revelation of downcast songcraft; it invigorates the return to earlier songs with the (well rewarded) hope of hearing anew where Pallbearer are coming from and where they plan to take us. Every song is well worth its run time – which is saying a lot when they’re basically all 10-minute slabs – but “Watcher in the Dark” is a favorite among very strong peers, with its bending chords, powerful lead work and ringing piano underpinnings; “The Ghost I Used to Be” endears with its impassioned vocal performance and engaged bass line.
Preconceptions and snap judgments, so common and easy in extreme music, do Pallbearer an extra disservice. Pallbearer do not serve a genre; rather, they write songs that should be heard in different moods and contexts, absorbed over time so they reveal their diverse paths. This isn’t metal for the slavering death hordes, but Foundations of Burden is a contemplative doom excursion well worth your money and time, time and time again.