ALBUM REVIEW: Pallbearer – Mind Burns Alive

Five albums into their career, the fact Pallbearer was once a Doom Metal band has faded into the haze of the atmosphere that dominates Mind Burns Alive (Nuclear Blast Records). Of all the metal sub-genres, fans of doom metal are the most forgiving when it comes to a band outgrowing the confines of the genre. Perhaps this is just Brett Campbell’s beautiful singing voice distracting you from the lyrics, which are as equally as bleak as those on the previous album. There might be a marginally more optimistic tone to “Where the Light Fades.” These depressive expressions are a thread of continuity tethering this bands’ entire body of work.

Campbell is no longer belting the songs out with Dio-like gusto, instead, he takes a more restrained and vulnerable approach to his singing. The title track finds some of their doomy heft driving the simmering pulse of the song. A gray melancholy hangs over the song, but this coat of gloom feels more like dark Rock than doom metal. Campbell continues to switch things up vocally by approaching the verses in a more hushed manner, only belting it out more when the dynamic shifts to a larger and louder sound. It only commits to being metal in time for the guitar solo.

Campbell’s voice continues to deserve the spotlight on “Signals.” If you compare this to his performance on “Sorrow and Extinction,” he almost sounds like a different person. However, if you show up to this album wanting it to pack the same punch as “Forgotten Days,” you might not be ready to hear an introspective ballad like this. This shows his growth as a singer. The song has a pleading introspection, building up into a more rock dynamic. If it were not for the sprawling eight-minute arrangements, these songs could be played on mainstream alternative rock radio. Not only is he pouring more of his soul into the microphone, but this album is produced in a manner that showcases his voice even more than on previous albums.

“Endless Place” brings the power chords to prove they have not forgotten who they are as a band. The drums lead the guitars into a lumbering labyrinth. Campbell projects his voice with more power here, giving this performance an almost post-Empire Geoff Tate tonal quality to his voice. This song wanders off into a more progressive place that works well with the band’s current direction. The saxophone is a surprise, and not the instrument you would normally associate with them. They build this song well to reach more of a sonic climax.

“Daybreak” finds Cambpell digging deeper into vulnerability, pushing it perhaps farther than what you might expect as it comes closer to mid-nineties emo like Mineral or Elliot. The fuzzed-out guitars anchor the band back into their sense of identity, causing him to put some guts back into it. The song carries a little more hope than despair, making the listener wonder if the band is perhaps smoking less weed and taking medication.

“With Disease” closes the album by returning to their angular signature doom riffing and more depressing qualities. They take you into a dark place before ending the album on a heavier note. This is fitting as the message of doom should leave the listener with all hope is lost. Mind Burns Alive is a stunning album. Even fans of the band who are resistant to this kind of change, will find it hard to argue against something this effective.

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9 / 10