Album Review: PALLBEARER Mind Burns Alive

Pallbearer Mind

Let’s talk about Pallbearer. What makes this Arkansas-based band memorable? Is it their unique blend of atonal harmonic choices wrapped in a doomy blanket? Is it their deep, droning riffs that entrance and memorize you? It is Brett Campbell‘s vulnerable and raw vocals? Album to album, it’s clear that Pallbearer have explored their sound, dabbling in new melodic territories and themes. Their discography shows tremendous growth and exploration of their sound from amateurish and hungry to more catchy and main-stream.

I feel that Pallbearer‘s fan-based is divided into who likes what era and what album. Many fans cite their freshman album, Sorrow and Extinction, as iconic and genre-defining. Meanwhile, critics call their 2020 release Forgotten Days as their best album yet. Mind Burns Alive is yet another shift for the band, propelling them into what I think is one of their best era’s yet.

Mind Burns Alive isn’t the chuggy, “mistakes on purpose”, heavy album you’d expect from Pallbearer. It is possibly their best, most cohesive and competent song composure to date. I’d argue that this is their most competently conceived album of their whole discography. Each song feels like it has direction and purpose without trying too hard. Pallbearer have taken the backbone of what makes their signature sound and leans into it in a softer, more astute way. Dissonant harmonies that reinvent familiar melody into haunting and surprising tones hallmark Pallbearer‘s career. Mind Burns Alive retains this idea and presents it in an emotional, expressive, and more delicate way.

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I can see long-time fans potentially not liking this album. Mind Burns Alive is a pretty big departure from what made them so popular to begin with. There is a dynamic of tranquil and deeply complex riffage strewn throughout each track, creating a atmosphere of longing and desperation. A decidedly emotional album, Mind Burns Alive is a heart rendering exploration, touching upon themes of loneliness and the disparity that comes with being a part of the human experience.

According to their press release, vocalist Brett Campbell states, “These songs are a deeper exploration of dynamics and sonic color than anything we have done up to this point. I’m of the belief that true heaviness comes from emotional weight, and sometimes sheer bludgeoning isn’t the right approach to getting a feeling across.”

This deliberate lack of ‘bludgeoning’ is evident from track one, “Where the Light Fades”. The song has a beautiful build-up, from frail and expressive to deep and striking. This welcome change really emphasizes their ability to be more than just a heavy, languid fuzz-fest. It shows a dynamic that makes their heavier choices that much more meaningful. It’s smart songwriting. If their MO was to get across ’emotional heaviness’, they’ve accomplished this in spades here.

Ending track “With Disease” is Pallbearer being completely Pallbearer. The track is 10 minutes long and honestly, I wouldn’t mind if it went on for an hour. I absolutely adore this track, and I find myself lost in the compelling refrains and emotive lyrics. When the lyrics end, the guitar solos pick up to takeover the where the story telling left off. It’s the heaviest track on the album and the latter half of the song is transformative and breathtaking. Tracks like “Daybreak” crawl along while creating an anticipation and bracing tension, as if you were breathless and craving for more. “Signals” has the same intensity and by the time the familiar crunchiness breaks in, it feels like an explosion of fervor.

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Mind Burns Alive is fresh and layered, combining traditional Pallbearer trademarks and a new, more eloquent softness. A very welcome addition to the distinctive discography of Pallbearer, Mind Burns Alive is sure to evoke something new and delightfully pensive out of the listener.

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