Pallbearer – “The Ghost I Used To Be”

By Michael Nelson / June 24, 2014 - 12:41 pm

Pallbearer’s debut, Sorrow And Extinction, was our #1 metal album of 2012, and last December, Sorrow‘s then-untitled/-unrecorded follow-up came in right around the midway point on our list of the 100 Most Anticipated Albums Of 2014. All work on that album is now complete — it was recorded and mixed by Billy Anderson, who also helmed Agalloch’s awesome The Serpent & The Sphere, and its cover art was created by Animetalphysical, who was also responsible for Sorrow‘s striking, evocative sleeve. The album is titled Foundations Of Burden and it will be released in August. Now that I’ve heard the whole thing — and, in fact, listened to it several dozen times, with still-heightening excitement — I can say without hesitation it belonged a great deal higher on that Most Anticipated list.

Sorrow And Extinction was a great album, of course — a modern landmark for the doom subgenre — but Foundations is entirely more confident, more diverse, and more immersive. All the great elements of old Pallbearer are still on display — the dramatic, anthemic hooks, the intricate, intertwined guitars, the rolling, thunderous rhythms, and Brett Campbell’s keening, angelic voice — but here they seem steadier than they did before, as if they are merely the base of the songs rather than their entire being. Pallbearer are now more comfortable working with alternate textures and rhythms, not to mention bolder vocal dynamics: For his part, Campbell is plainly a stronger vocalist today than he was two years ago, and his towering performances are aided by masterful harmonies, backing vocals, and even some stunning lead vox via guitarist Devin Holt and bassist Joseph D. Rowland. Foundations wasn’t eligible for our list of the 50 Best Albums Of 2014 So Far, but had it been, I would have campaigned to push it to the uppermost reaches of that list. Right now, for me, it’s in a 3-way tie for the year’s best metal album along with Nux Vomica’s Nux Vomica and YOB’s upcoming Clearing The Path To Ascend.

Today the band is debuting Foundations track “The Ghost I Used To Be”; it’s the first song from the album to be made public, and a good choice for lead “single”: “Ghost” presents a compelling balance of the band’s beloved Sorrow-era style with some of the harder, faster, sharper, more dramatic elements they have built into their new sound. It’s a fantastic, ferocious song, and it’s not even my favorite track on the album, which should give you an idea just how good this thing is. Not that you need any such context — all on its own “Ghost” offers more than enough evidence of Pallbearer’s continued greatness. Listen.

Foundations Of Burden is out 8/19 via Profound Lore.