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Pallbearer - Mind Burns Alive review

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Band: Pallbearer
Album: Mind Burns Alive
Style: Doom metal
Release date: May 2024

01. Where The Light Fades
02. Mind Burns Alive
03. Signals
04. Endless Place
05. Daybreak
06. With Disease

It's not a big surprise that out of all the metal genres, it is the slow, somber, and mournful one that has the biggest penchant for emotion. Here's Pallbearer going heavy on the emotion and light on the metal.

Doom metal is a pretty large umbrella term, and not all subgenres are equally as emotional or displaying emotion in the same way. Not all emotions are equal either, since we generally call something "emotional" when it's full of sadness and grief and despair, as if the anger or the joviality displayed in most other metal isn't also an emotion. Regardless, this feeling of loss and of failure to come to terms with life and death is something that is really befitting of the doom sound, more often than not of its death doom and funeral doom branches. Traditional doom though has often been to closely tied with Black Sabbath worship to really go all in on emphasizing that emotional appeal the same way other subgenres have, though it's not like it has ever been a stranger to it either. "Please let me die in solitude" might be the most iconic trad/epic doom metal line for a reason. Enter Pallbearer.

Pallbearer are one of the most celebrated traditional doom metal bands, with their 2010 demo especially being a contender for being the best of its style in that decade. It's not like this is a band overshadowed by one release, especially since the following two releases have gotten significantly more attention and acclaim. But for the purposes of this review, the trajectory that's most relevant is the one from 2017's Heartless through 2020's Forgotten Days, because the former upped the ante on the progressive rock/metal influences, whereas the latter simplified and softened things. Mind Burns Alive could've followed the trajectory of either of these, it could've been a return to heavier or proggier sounds, instead it dives even deeper on the soft and direct approach that made Forgotten Days. I'm not saying that's a bad thing, but the stripping of it down to a very clean vocals focused softer doom with a very specific acquired taste vocal tone reminded me less of Pallbearer of the past. Instead it made me think "Hold on a second, this is a 40 Watt Sun record!".

Which is far from the worst lane to find yourself in, especially as 40 Watt Sun have all but abandoned the doom metal sound itself, whereas Pallbearer still operate within it, though Mind Burns Alive is the one that's furthest away with how much of its softening comes from taking in slowcore and post-rock sounds. But Brett Campbell is not Patrick Walker. When your sound gets this close that comparisons become inevitable, even if I don't accuse Pallbearer of intentionally sounding like someone else, we're talking about something that came out of Warning, objectively the best doom metal of this millennium. You can't beat them at their own game. Brett Campbell does a really great job of selling the emotion in the music here, and a lot of what works about the record is because of how impassioned his performance is, especially when the mix and the songwriting pushes his voice forward, but it is set back by the obvious comparison and by the fact that his vocals are also an acquired taste and all the energy needed to attune to it is something that I'm still expending on every listen, though less and less.

Drawbacks both objective and subjective aside, I do think that Mind Burns Alive works much more than it doesn't. The simplification of songwriting means that the appeal is more immediate and the blend of doom and slowcore/post-rock can create some properly mournful soundscapes. The riffing hasn't lost its knack for sustaining that atmosphere, and with how prolonged the songs are, these songs are still quite the dirges. "Endless Place" is where things work the most, both because of the aforementioned elements, but also because it is the doomiest and has a pretty neat sax moment. This is immediately followed by the "Daylight" which takes things in the mellowest direction, sounding the closest the band has ever sounded to a 90s indie emo band (this is a compliment), which does give me hope that the band can push even further to carve their own identity within this niche without having to revert to being that trad doom band nor trying to replicate the sound of another band.

Written on 30.05.2024 by Doesn't matter that much to me if you agree with me, as long as you checked the album out.


Comments: 1   Visited by: 43 users
30.05.2024 - 21:40
Great review of this great Doom band
Maybe as his eyes are wide.

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