Pallbearer

Mind Burns Alive finds Pallbearer navigating the space between disquiet and serenity with a singular intensity. At times poetic and blistering, their fifth full length is a heartfelt meditation on isolation, trauma and mental breakdown, framed by the possibility of redemption and the quiet, aching beauty of escape.

Musically and lyrically stripped bare and vulnerable, Mind Burns Alive deals in universal themes of loneliness and the feeling of emotionally drowning in a world turning upside down. Bassist/vocalist Joseph D. Rowland describes the album as “an exploration of fate; when you are deceived by your own instincts and internal voice.”

The album opens with the deceptive restraint of “Where The Light Fades,” a sparse, melodic echo anchored to the mournful tenor of vocalist/guitarist Brett Campbell. Hazy reverb-laden guitars wind against Campbell’s vocals; typically soaring, here cowed and shaken before building to a spine tingling crescendo of emotional release.

“These songs are a deeper exploration of dynamics and sonic color than anything we have done up to this point,” explains Campbell. While the band’s earlier catalog leaned on walls of guitar, massive distortion and piercing vocals, they achieve more on Mind Burns Alive by stripping everything back. “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,” Campbell adds.

The second single to be taken from the album proves that Pallbearer remain committed, in the right context, to the use of volume and distortion. The reticent acoustic and synth that introduce “Endless Place” quickly tumble into the controlled yet deliberately disjointed rhythm that underscores the song. Driven by hues of 90s death-doom, guitarist Devin Holt brings the melody front and center, capitalizing on the exceptional drum work provided by percussionist Mark Lierly. The band cede the spotlight at a pivotal point to Norman Williamson who provides a modal saxophone solo which, in a deft trick of shading, offers brief glimmers of relief before spiraling down into madness and the song’s pummeling, cyclical finish.

Lyrically, Endless Place exemplifies the thematic tone of the record. Per Campbell, “These songs are vignettes which tell the stories of people who deal with myriad sicknesses of the spirit. These are illnesses communicated by the world we live in, and the subjects are the symptoms of its disease.”

Five years in the making, the journey to fruition did not come easy. Recording, initially slated for 2020, was delayed for obvious reasons. A second attempt in 2022 saw yet another roadblock with Campbell remarking, “After so much time, and two aborted attempts to record, it was beginning to feel like the album was cursed.” Finally, in 2023, everything came together and what felt like a creative process doomed to incompletion was transmuted into an opportunity to expound upon their original vision for the album.

Mind Burns Alive was tracked at Fellowship Hall Sound & the band’s own studio spaces in Little Rock, Arkansas, “It’s been a long and obsessive process, and a lot of our focus has expanded since Heartless to production, to having the ability to record exactly what we want, how and when we want,” says Rowland,

Building a studio that the band could use as their own motivated Rowland to move from Brooklyn back to Arkansas. “It’s ironic given that the album is largely centered around isolation,” says Rowland, “but it felt like it summoned us into being back together again in one town, after so long apart.”

That creative proximity enabled songs like title track “Mind Burns Alive,” which exudes an intimacy unlike any Pallbearer work prior. Where the album is a panoramic view of isolation and angst, this song travels the sonic arc of mental deterioration. Laced with a sense of cinematic heroism, Rowland’s lyrics–carried by Campbell’s tender yet sinister vocals–describe a man on a doomed personal crusade. “My mind has ignited / I can feel it burning it down.”

With “Signals,” space and silence carry the same weight as a power chord. Just shy of eight minutes, the track is accented with moments of prolonged quiet, almost to the point of discomfort. The resulting atmosphere is both captivating and emotionally evocative. Lyrically a clear eyed plea to someone in the throes of self destruction, it is shorn of any excess, profoundly direct and affecting.

Speaking to the newfound openness in the album’s influences, Rowland states that the band was “inspired to infuse the band’s emotive and heavy songcraft with hues of slowcore to match its themes of solitude and desperation.”

Penned and sung in part by Rowland, “Daybreak,” finds Pallbearer at their most meditative and sparse. Reflective without falling prey to sentimentality, the song tells a lonesome tale of acceptance as emotional salvation – where leaning into the pain is the most liberating form of letting go. “On the day I break /Just sweep the pieces all away / And let them scatter / I don’t need an after.”

Mind Burns Alive concludes, incensed and unforgiving. As its title elucidates, “With Disease” is among the heaviest songs Pallbearer have committed to tape. It finds Campbell, augmented by Holt, exchanging his standard delicate vocalizations for a much more visceral delivery. Consequentially the song, and the album as a whole, diverts on an unsettling path both musically and lyrically ending with the ominous despair delivered in seething tones by Campbell: “Lives filled with empty pursuits / A fate that keeps us on our knees / My mind is empty, too / Fill it up with disease.”

In the wake of the paradigm shifting of a pandemic, neverending political upheaval and environmental collapse, these six songs offer a singular perspective into the pain that lies at the heart of everyday experience. “Pallbearer has always functioned as that place for us,” sums up Campbell, where the band provides a cleansing outlet to express a spectrum of uncomfortable emotions. Mind Burns Alive is not simply an exposition on those complex feelings. It is the musical intersection where struggle collides with the will to carry on.

 

ASSETS

Looking for client assets? Let us know how we can help here:

Please enable JavaScript in your browser to complete this form.
Name