"Thumps to the back of the head are tempered by prog, synths, sax and slowcore." Doom champions Pallbearer branch out on emotionally devastating new album Mind Burns Alive

After dipping their toes in the prog pool with 2020's Forgotten Days, Arkansas doom-mongers Pallbearer embrace experimental sounds with new album Mind Burns Alive

Pallbearer 2024
(Image: © Dan Almasy/Nuclear Blast)

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Looking to throw your heavy metal claws aloft and mindlessly bellow “Yeaahhhhh!” at the rafters? That’s fine and all, but chances are this is not the doom you are looking for. Mind Burns Alive is Pallbearer’s most expansive and atypical work to date, and while the band have long exhibited restless, wayward traits, they’ve largely been kept in check by the steady whip hand of doom traditionalism. 

Here, on the band’s fifth album, that resolve is beginning to waver. They’ve not done away with the crunch entirely, but quiet restraint is now the name of the game, and those thumps to the back of the head are tempered by prog, synths, sax and slowcore. Not unlike Patrick Walker’s journey from Warning to 40 Watt Sun, Pallbearer have managed to maintain a sense of pile-driving emotional weight, even when the music murmurs. 

Cuts like Daybreak and the title track combine elegant riffing with soft, whispered croons that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Codeine or Galaxie 500 record, while the shimmer-edged Signals speaks to the blurry post-hardcore of Hum, Failure and major-label Cave In. If these sounds are at least in keeping with the album’s overriding themes – loneliness, isolation and spiralling disbelief in the face of a world that threatens to consume you – then others are more surprising. 

A slick 80s sheen coats much of the album, greasing Brett Campbell’s vocals, slip-sliding into AOR-infused solos, and pooling into a plush jazz meltdown with Endless Place. Bizarrely, the mix is a triumphant one, and by the time 10-and-half-minute closing track With Disease rolls around, you’re not just intrigued but wholly invested: shoulders flexing, heart thudding in your chest, and willing those wending vocals to soar ever closer to the sun, even if it means disaster. Heck, maybe we do need that mindlessly bellowed “Yeaahhhhh!” after all?

Mind Burns Alive is out Friday May 17 via Nuclear Blast.