For Pallbearer, following 2014’s Foundations Of Burden was probably daunting. Topping several critics’ year-end lists and breaking the Billboard Top 100, it revitalised doom, recalling a legacy entwined with metal’s very inception before its dour magnitude became a denizen of the underground. In a post Sabbath world, Pallbearer emerge as successors. Their funereal doom with stadium-sized ambition on this monumental new effigy isn’t likely to revolutionise metal in as fundamental a manner, but it is full of the potential to reinvigorate rock’s mainstream.
I Saw The End sets the tone, opening with a baleful lead to resonate through ages, soon bolstered by sonorous riffs of equal weight to anything from their last outing. A catchy intro draws you into the heart of the track’s consternation, setting you up for the solos. Dear god, the solos. Positioned perfectly for maximum righteousness, the feeling of exultancy they produce is off the scale. Thorns’ initial turbulence pares down to melancholic soliloquy. It’s tragically beautiful, the ascendant vocal versatility of Brett Campbell proving ever sorrow-tinged, but capable of moments of inspirational power. Dancing In Madness’s mellifluous funereal march degenerates into a lumbering, savage, uncontrollable rage in its snarled oath: ‘You will not survive’. Cruel Road makes good on its promise, its opening salvo of joyously blunt bottom-end making for the most spinetingling moment of the many on offer.
The album’s 13-minute denouement, A Plea For Understanding, serves only to underline Pallbearer’s primacy. They’ve enough bite to satiate the underground but it’s rendered in a manner so accessibly engaging that it surely can’t be long before they attract wider attention. Their morbidity brings mortality to mind, evoking melancholy, but like the happy memories of lost loved ones, coupling it with uplifting succour, and a devout will to flourish, to make our lives memorable.