In the VIP balcony at Mr. Small’s Theatre (Pittsburgh), February 2013
EDITOR’S NOTE: for nearly two years, the Arkansas melodic doom quartet Pallbearer has been among my wife’s absolute favorite bands. I know she’d been eagerly snapping up every available bit of information leading up to the release of their second album; now that it’s been released, we listened to it together, and she had some strong reactions and opinions — so I asked whether she wanted to write something about it. So here is her review of Foundations of Burden.
Pallbearer – Foundations of Burden (Profound Lore Records, 19 August 2014)
reviewed by Mrs. Valley of Steel
I first heard Pallbearer in December of 2012 on accident. I was scrolling through Facebook and saw a video that someone had posted, which I thought was something else. I clicked on it, I listened and I had no idea what I was in for ultimately. I have to admit, I felt an immediate kinship to this music. For much of my life, I have felt an attachment to a darker side of my personality; I often embrace being melancholy and don’t always see it as the burden that some people do with those types of emotions. Pallbearer definitely tapped into that for me. I felt instantaneously connected to each riff and sludgy chord. I can tell you without a shadow of a doubt, this band is mainly responsible for so much of the music I have discovered in this journey with my husband over the past three years. It’s clearly felt personal to me and I am sure, with all the recent hype, that I am not the only one who enjoys dwelling in the despair.
Intronaut – Habitual Levitations (Instilling Words with Tones) (Century Media Records, 19 March 2013)
Hello there! “TFIF” and all that stuff. I wanted to get one more thing written and shared with you before the weekend, and in deciding what to talk to you about, I was feeling kind of reflective: looking both forward and back. Forward, because (as I mentioned yesterday) this year seems to be slipping by at an alarming rate. Before we know it, it’ll be time for year-end summaries and lists already! There are a few new records that’ve either just come out (or will be soon) that I’m sure will rank pretty high, as well as some from earlier this year I’ve listened to a whole bunch but maybe just haven’t had the chance to review yet. I’m going to want to get moving on posting something about all of those, lest I find myself in a situation like I did at the end of 2013 (where I put together a list of my favorite 26 releases of the year, 25 of which I hadn’t yet written about!) … which, of course, is what also has me thinking backwards. Almost nine months later, I’m still not quite halfway through reviewing last year’s list yet!
So I decided, there’s no time like the present; let’s discuss another of last year’s best albums. This is one of the more high-profile items on that list, or at least one that was put out via the biggest label. So a lot of you are probably already familiar with this band. But there may be some out there who haven’t heard Intronaut before, or may have missed out on this album — which would be a shame, because it’s really good stuff!
Lifetime Shitlist – Lifetime Shitlist (Grimoire Records, 10 June 2014)
Well holy crap. When did this happen — I can’t believe it’s more than halfway through August already! (Well, to be honest, just the fact that we’re more than halfway through 2014 seems kind of insane…) The past month or two has completely been a blur to me, mostly in regards to craziness at work. My company bought another company, adding tons of extra paperwork for us pencil-pushers, exactly at the same time that someone in my department who’d had lots of responsibilities had to suddenly go out on medical leave. Add in all the usual week-long summer vacations that people tend to take, plus new temps who’ve needed training as they’ve come and gone randomly over the past several weeks, and I’ve barely been finding time to breathe or eat (let alone sit still long enough to even LISTEN to much music, nevermind trying to actually WRITE anything!)
But I have had the chance to listen to some stuff recently — some really good stuff — and gradually things will be settling down a bit. And anyway, I don’t want you to think I’ve forgotten about you, readers! So I’ll be trying to take advantage of what little freetime I can find (for example right now I’m writing this intro on the bus at 4:30 am, instead of sleeping, since I found myself inexplicably unable to sleep most of last night anyway), to share with you some new releases that you really ought to hear. Besides, this particular EP I’d like to tell you about today is only sixteen minutes long, give or take, so I’ll try to keep this relatively short.
Slaves BC / Grace & Thieves – Cursed Breath / Innocent Blood (Veritas Vinyl, 04 August 2014)
The split record is an interesting concept in the music industry. The vinyl EP or LP or cassette with (usually) one band on each side, or the more modern CD or digital release with tracks contributed by two (or occasionally more) bands — these frequently fall into a couple different categories. Sometimes bands will be such kindred spirits, sharing all the same influences and each representing a similar approach to their particular genre, that it seems completely natural for them to work together; in these cases the bands probably already have a huge overlap in their fan bases, but the split will surely be a treat for those people who already like both bands. On the other hand, many joint releases are the result of bands who are close friends — perhaps they live in the same city and play shows together all the time — but who actually have little else in common; the result here is that die-hard “completist” fans of either band will end up buying the record, but probably few of them will listen to the flip side more than once (if at all).
In most other cases, two bands are brought together by songs third party: perhaps they share management or PR representation, or belong to the same record label’s roster. These could be marketed to fans of each band or just people who may have been familiar with some of the other output from that label (or whatever); it becomes an efficient way for listeners to “test drive” bands, without having to take a chance investing in a full length from someone unfamiliar. Ideally, the person putting together the release will have done some homework (or just have good instincts) and pair up artists who are different enough to attract a wide range of listeners, yet share enough of a common bond for both sides to appeal (at least to some degree) to that whole audience.
And if you ask me (and technically, by clicking on this review and reading these words I wrote, you did ask me — at least implicitly), the Veritas Vinyl label has accomplished this successfully with their Cursed Breath / Innocent Blood 12″ which officially comes out today. This split brings together bands that employ two rather disparate styles of metal (one leaning in a blackened direction, the other sticking with a more old-school doom and traditional heavy metal sound), but they each combine their respective patois with a foundation heavily influenced by hardcore/noise and/or hardcore punk.