Pallbearer / Mind Burns Alive, A Masterpiece Of Progressive Doom Intensity

It’s been four years since Forgotten Days, the fourth album by Pallbearer, the Little Rock, Arkansas outfit. That album was, in my view, their best piece of work in their discography. I wrote in my review that, “At times, the sheer enormity of Pallbearer’s sound is simply mind-blowing. The band create riffs that move mountains, their intense heaviness balanced by the feeling with which they are delivered.”

Pallbearer – Mind Burns Alive (Nuclear Blast Records)

Release Date: 17 May 2024

Words: Paul Hutchings

Mind Burns Alive may be the album to top Forgotten Days. Whilst the riffs are most definitely still present, they are pared back for parts of the six tracks that intoxicate and enchant. 

Pallbearer – Mind Burns Alive (Nuclear Blast Records)
Pallbearer – Mind Burns Alive (Nuclear Blast Records)

Progressive Doom was the badge that was always pinned on Pallbearer. But there’s a delicate shift on Mind Burns Alive which sees them ease into other passages of play. But don’t worry, the crushing hammers remain very much in the arsenal and are still used to great effect. 

The vocals are lower in the mix. The variation is greater in effect, with ethereal movements that contrast with the punishing, driven riffs that crash into the songs. 

The phenomenal title track is evidence of that, a song that ebbs and flows magnificently. It’s impossible not to be captured by the band’s sound, drawn into their web, and thoroughly immersed.

It took Pallbearer some time to regroup after the Heartless tour. As singer Brett Campbell told Kerrang! magazine earlier this year, “I went to the doctor, and the doctor was like, ‘Yeah, you’ve had bronchitis for some time.’ I had an entire respiratory infection, I was exhausted, and we were like, ‘We need to take a year off.”

That period of recuperation allowed him to write some of the band’s most fruitful work. 

Pallbearer. Photo: Dan Almasy
Pallbearer. Photo: Dan Almasy

The pandemic’s pause provided them with time to regroup. With Forgotten Days released, they hit the road again and toured the UK in 2022, playing Damnation and Arctangent festivals as well as a series of shows with Elder. Their set at The Fleece in Bristol remains a favourite evening. 

Unsurprisingly, Mind Burns Alive isn’t a jolly record. Themes of being ‘unwell’ pervade, lyrically reaching hopeless conclusions, taking in isolation, neuroses, poor mental health, depression, and sickness. 

Matching the darkness in the lyrical content, the music is suffocating, overwhelming, yet with a fascinating edge that you can’t help but enjoy. Where the Light Fades is a gentle opener, yet there remains a heavier undertone which you know will eventually surface. 

Each song on Mind Burns Alive is expansive, for Pallbearer don’t do quick. They sprawl, evolve organically, and on the ten-and-a-half-minute Endless Place they have the audacity to introduce saxophone, courtesy of local friend Norman, who unleashes some feral sax to add to the tension and atmosphere. That it fits in so easily and fluidly is testament to Campbell’s vision. 

This isn’t for those with a three-minute attention span. As I said, the songs are long, with the shortest of the six being Where Light Fades, which is close to seven minutes. Signals and the alternative format of Daybreak ensure contrast and provide interest. Complex and intense, Pallbearer are not for the faint-hearted. 

Whilst Campbell may sing in almost angelic terms at times, as we hear on Daybreak, he can also unleash a more ferocious tone which combats those riffs. And then, just as you think you’ve coped with it all, Pallbearer unleash With Disease. A crushingly monstrous 10-minute plus masterpiece, it finishes the album in epic style.

Mind Burns Alive is both accessible and challenging. It needs time, and I need more time to appreciate the lyrical content fully. 

Having had it on repeat for the last week, I’m able to report that it does rival Forgotten Days in every level. It’s simply a superb record. 

Pallbearer – Mind Burns Alive is available from here. Their US Tour begins on 6 June.

Pallbearer - US Tour 2024
Pallbearer – US Tour 2024

Sleeve Notes

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