Album review: Pallbearer – Mind Burns Alive

Doom outliers Pallbearer embrace the quiet on emotional fifth album Mind Burns Alive…

Album review: Pallbearer – Mind Burns Alive
Olly Thomas

The slow tempos of doom make it the area of metal most inclined towards existential meditations. Even so, few have stared into an abyss of mental and physical fragility with quite such scrutiny as Pallbearer do on this absorbing fifth album – even as their musical tendencies drift further from their roots than ever before.

Many of these songs date from the same creative period as its predecessor, 2020’s Forgotten Days, but the band made a conscious decision to hive off the quieter material. As such, Mind Burns Alive is a distinct listening experience, emphasising Pallbearer’s progressive side but with none of the showboating that can imply. Instead, opener Where The Light Fades is fragile and emotional, while Signals is almost slowcore in its subtlety and use of space; when its stillness is interrupted by a heavy riff, it’s as if Mogwai were more into My Dying Bride than My Bloody Valentine.

So yes, there are riffs here: the title-track opens with one somehow both mournful and uplifting, while Endless Place splices Sabbath and psychedelia like Trouble or Alice In Chains. But whatever mode Pallbearer deploy, it’s in service to an overarching narrative that confronts feelings of isolation and depression. Drawn from experience, the melancholy expressed from the album’s very first lyric, ‘We are frozen here / Picking at wounds we will not let heal,’ feels real and raw.

There is no relief at Mind Burns Alive’s close, just a tip from reflection into rage as With Disease descends into the abyss. From these depths, Pallbearer have fashioned a graceful and immersive record, one which confirms that we’re dealing with one of modern metal’s most challenging and unique propositions.

Verdict: 4/5

For fans of: Trouble, Mastodon, Elder

Mind Burns Alive is released on May 17 via Nuclear Blast

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