Foundations of Burden
It would not be hyperbolic to call metal group Pallbearer’s latest album, “Foundations of Burden,” epic. The tracks, most of which clock in at more than 10 minutes long, are composed with the sort of passionate gravitas usually reserved for symphonies. This is evident from the get-go in the first track, “Worlds Apart,” which is the most stereotypically metal song out of the six-track album with its heavy, screeching guitar licks; weighty drums; and high-pitched, crooning vocals.
“Worlds Apart” is a full 10 minutes and 17 seconds, exactly the same length as “The Ghost I Used to Be” and shorter than the final track, “Vanished.” While most of the songs are about three times longer than what is usually played on the radio, the length is justified and avoids tedium. These long songs allow Pallbearer’s true talent, its instruments, to bask in languid glory and showcase the intense guitars and metronomic drum.
This album is not just for the usual heavy metal listener. The band holds back in ballad “Watcher in the Dark,” where all instruments, save for a lonely guitar or drum beat, periodically drop out and then, layer by layer, build back up again. “Ashes,” with a dreamy synth and a slowly crashing cymbal, is similarly understated. If listened to out of the context of a doom metal album, the song might even sound lifted from an indie record. This shift in genre works as a relaxing, three-minute respite from the classic metal elements of the previous songs.
Throughout the album, vocals seem to be a mere garnish to the powerful instruments. When singing is present at all, singer and guitarist Brett Campbell’s Ozzy Osbourne-meets-Bruce Dickinson vocals are decently faded, an accessory to the thick guitar chords rather than a leader of the charge. The heavily chorded, minimally shredding guitar is what drives these lengthy tracks.
“Foundations of Burden” gives pure doom metal without the usual shortcomings of the genre. It’s unhurried and technically flawless. It even, at times, manages to be an adjective rarely used to describe metal music: beautiful.