Pallbearer_Foundations_Of_BurdenAh, the dreaded Second Album. It’s the infamous make-or-break moment that either legitimizes a young act as The Real Deal, or the one record that calls a band on its bullshit. Case in point: 2012’s Sorrow and Extinction put Little Rock, Arkansas’s Pallbearer into the ears and hearts of many doom aficionados, rightfully earning its place on many end-of-year playlists. A minor line-up shuffle and a few high-profile tours later, they’ve returned with the much-anticipated Foundations of Burden. Have they hit doom metal perfection this time around?

No, but they’re so damn close. Foundations of Burden is not Sorrow and Extinction Part II. Rather, it’s the sound of a band acknowledging the power and emotion of the debut, and razing it to ashes before taking off to the stratosphere. Everything is improved upon from their already impressive debut. Mere seconds into “Worlds Apart” shows stronger riffs and melodies from guitarists Devin Holt and Brett Campbell, and Joseph D. Rowland’s crushing basslines are as tar-thick as ever, but there’s a greater ebb and flow to the songwriting. And speaking of Campbell, his voice, which was a bit shaky and vulnerable before, is now brimming with confidence. His delivery is nothing short of breathtaking throughout the entirety of Foundations, whether it’s in the verses or the many Beach Boys-esque multi-part vocal harmonies.

It’s tough to really verbalize any standout songs, as almost all of them accentuate what amazing doom metal will make the listener feel: the sense of abject despair sprinkled with a glimmer of hope. “The Ghost I Used to Be” is the power of From These Wounds-era Funeral capped off with a soaring finale. “Watcher in the Dark” lurches and crushes, thanks in no small part to new drummer Mark Lierly’s careful choice of fills, before allowing some much-needed breathing room about six minutes in with a melody recalling earlier Paradise Lost and Anathema. However, it’s the closing number, “Vanished,” that utterly brings out emotions like few others can. After a moving vocal harmony at the 7:26 mark, music thundering in the background, it dissipates slowly. The best way to describe the feeling as the song winds down is that of a tender embrace by a long-lost friend at a rainy funeral for a loved one who’s slowly being lowered to their final resting place, with the sun trying to break through the fog and despair. “Beautiful,” “moving” and “heartfelt” aren’t quite strong enough adjectives to describe that feeling.

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The flaws are few, but sadly exist. “Ashes,” while a beautiful song full of Rhodes keyboards and violins, doesn’t quite reach the same power as the rest of the album. Billy Anderson’s production and mastering is more powerful and brighter than on Sorrow and Extinction, but sadly not as dynamic. Even then, it’s a good sounding record. I mean, that bass tone, those riffs, and all those beautiful vocal harmonies… damn.

Foundations of Burden finds Pallbearer oozing confidence and bleeding sincerity. A good friend of mine described them as “Funeral meets Fleet Foxes,” and while it’s a good summation of their sound, it doesn’t nearly do them justice. This is a band that deserves its place in the doom pantheon along with the greats of yore, and is an incredible album to purge your heart to. Avoid this masterpiece at your own peril.


Rating:  4.5/5.0
DR:  6  |  Format Reviewed:  320kbps MP3
Label:  Profound Lore Records
Website:  PallbearerDoom |  PallbearerFacebook
Release Dates: EU: 2014.08.22  |  NA:  08.19.2014

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  • NeverBlack

    Well, my life seems too happy right now, I think I need some DOOM on it.

    Btw, awesome review as always!

  • JWG

    At this point I think I should just flat out commit a regular portion of my paycheck directly to Profound Lore. I haven’t found an album yet on their list that I’m not deeply and completely hooked on.

    No exception here, from what I’ve heard.

    • http://www.metalvortex.net/ [HKK] Hell³

      They are one of today’s labels that is fully committed to their tastemaker role.

      And I love they are finally embracing same day releases and pre-orders on bandcamp.

    • David Rosales

      you’re very easy to please

  • Luke_22

    Incredible album that somehow enhances and builds on nearly every aspect of the stunning debut. Nice review as well.

  • http://www.metalvortex.net/ [HKK] Hell³

    I agree that Billy Anderson really made a great job producing this album, I also wished for more dynamics but I guess they are reserving some for vinyl.

    • Grymm

      Oh, I’m getting the 2xLP version ASAP.

      • http://www.metal-fi.com/ Alex

        I’ve asked Billy if a higher dynamic master was done for the vinyl. Still waiting on an official answer.

        • Grymm

          Please figure this out for us. I would definitely shell out extra dough for it if that’s the case.

          • http://www.metal-fi.com/ Alex

            I think we are ALL in agreement that this record does indeed sound great. Mr Anderson is extremely talented, no question. However, would have it sounded even better with more dynamics like their debut? No question.

            Hopefully the vinyl doesn’t disappoint!

  • Monsterth Goatom

    The album’s streaming at Pitchfork until the 18th of this month: http://pitchfork.com/advance/510-foundations-of-burden/

  • Jean-Luc Ricard

    I am cacking my pants with excitement for this record.

  • https://bandcamp.com/jayalangoodwin Jay Alan Goodwin

    I do like this album as well but, the album cover fucking rules even more than the album itself (got my preorder days ago.) They should make shirts, with that album art, of the same color. I’d buy like three.

  • JC_BT

    Great record, if a bit front-loaded. The first three tracks are as good as anything on their debut I’d say. Really digging the fleshed out guitar tracks and additional vocals as well.

  • Carlos Marrickvillian

    Excellent review.
    I agree with your comment about the vocals, to me this makes it a better release than S&E though as with S&E the song writing and guitars are the big stars

  • euthanatos

    I’m still not crazy about the vocals (not in terms of technique, just personal taste), but the riffs are amazing. Great review.

  • DrChocolate

    Cue fan girl squeal circa 1964, my copy just came in the mail today. I can’t wait to pop it in and sink down into it … wait as I type that it sounds, no, that’s not what I … Dammit. Whatever, stoked to really spend some time with this one.

  • David Rosales

    “Ah, the dreaded Second Album. It’s the infamous make-or-break moment that either legitimizes a young act as The Real Deal, or the one record that calls a band on its bullshit.”

    Well said!