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Foundations Of Burden Dan Franklin , August 7th, 2014 11:36

The miserable youth slumped under a stone archway on the cover of Into The Depths Of Sorrow by Solitude Aeternus would love Pallbearer's second album, Foundations Of Burden. As opener 'Worlds Apart' surges forth, it's crystal clear just how classical Pallbearer are in their approach to doom metal. The immediate point of comparison with Solitude Aeternus is the voice of Brett Campbell, recalling the high reaches and range of Robert Lowe. That, and the reverb-drenched, somewhere-in-the-distance approach to their guitar leads.

Pallbearer's sound has an early 90s sheen, an overt epic fantasy feel; music to overlay Game Of Thrones fan videos: "Most intense Lannister moments!" (By way of contrast do check out the YouTube compilation of McDonald's fights soundtracked by Iron Monkey - I'm not joking).

But I haven't come to bury Pallbearer, I've come to praise them. Because, as they propound a solemn doom philosophy that also adheres to heavy metal's ornate melodicism, they are dragging themselves in triumph out of the riptide pulling other bands under to drown in redundancy. Like Argus − who broke through the year before Pallbearer's debut Sorrow And Extinction with 2011's exceptional Boldly Stride The Doomed − the sheer conviction they show to a 25-year-old tradition is in itself innovative.

Although not as wretched and gritty as Hooded Menace, nor as gigantic and spiritual as Yob, Pallbearer's stately poise is disarming and hefty. Be it the closing crushing moments of 'Worlds Apart' or the way they twist up then slowly release the tension of 'Vanished'. In the muscular interweaving guitars of 'Watcher In the Dark', there is evidence of a supremely educated band at work, benevolent enough to share the satisfaction of their learning with their listenership. The down-tempo discipline of this track is exceptional, acceding the lead to drummer Mark Lierly (after an introduction of early Cathedral derivation), powering down as bassist Joseph D. Rowland gets to meander over the churning procession, then soaring to journey's end.

The songwriting is skilled and thoughtful throughout the album: the band develops its themes without sprawling, one chapter following the next in confident succession. Where Pallbearer really excel is in their exploration of the hinterland of doom's crimson horizon, the codas developed where many bands would have concluded a track.

There are two stand-out instances of this. 'Foundations' resembles Crowbar in trippy molten universe mode − decorated with some tasty flourishes and turnarounds − until it dramatically alters course with a glistening, Floydish stanza that breaks into full flower. Then there are the pained, protracted closing passages of 'The Ghost I Used To Be': indulgent, vivid, and actually quite wonderful.

The only misstep is interlude 'Ashes', which is just too earnest and strangely brings to mind a dance anthem set-up. Though its ambient Rhodes piano and naked melody burn out in time to make it a curiosity and not a disaster.

That's a small criticism. Because rather than carry a casket loaded down with the fast-tiring tropes of the doom genre, with Foundations Of Burden Pallbearer choose to breathe thrilling new life into them.

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