I told a colleague, who is also into Pallbearer, how much I was enjoying their first album. He agreed, adding how much he loved their third, even though most people consider their second to be the best. I understand what he means–Foundations of Burden, their second, is amazing. But I could not imagine it without the first. Perhaps, in some small way, I’m starting to see beyond the need for ranking things, at least in the sense of pitting them against each other.

Having said that, I can’t get over how perfect Foundations of Burden is. I enjoy it as much as Hunted.

I was tempted to think that they are each average instrumentalists, but brilliant songwriters, when it just occurred to me how stupid that is. It assumes both that technical prowess is some combination of speed and complexity, and that it is self-sufficient. Both are false. The skill it takes to play something exactly right is greater than speed, and is alone self-sufficient.

Along those lines I am just now realizing that great musicians play within the spaces of each other. This is not to say they can’t play the same notes at times, rather, that each is listening to the other and knows how to best compliment the others.


I just listened to the first track of Dream theater’s new album. They are musical gods playing among men. And I am reminded of how much I appreciate the way Petrucci always, fundamentally plays for the song–not for himself. Yet I can’t listen to the whole album yet. On the face of it, this seems ridiculous, for on the face of it they should be precisely the kind of band I would love. I’m in awe of…what excactly? Their sound, virtuosity, sense of musicality, of course. But why am I not pulled in? Is it that there’s something tiring about having to be in amazed at every note? But that can’t be correct, for I would say exactly the same thing about Pallbearer. Each plays in a way that’s exactly right. Is it because you realize, at all times, that you are listening to a band that plays at the very upper limits of what musicians are capable of? Perhaps this is closer to the truth. I wonder if it’s related to the fact that I love albums over songs? This would also explain why the only album of theirs I love is Metropolis. This also explains why, after listening to that first track, as impressed as I was, I went right back to Pallbearer’s Heartless.


It’s interesting that of the three albums it took me longest to see the brilliance of Heartless. Perhaps more importantly, I finally understand that, with a truly great band, any album is a valid entry point for the new listener.


Dancing in Madness into Cruel Road is amazing. This is the climax of the album. I now understand why it has been so hard for me to see–no. This way of thinking needs to stop. This part of the album is better than that. If I love an album, every part is critical and depends on the other.

Yet, or perhaps because of, there needs to be a way of understanding the parts of a song, the roles they play. I’m still amazed by the climax of Dancing in Madness into Cruel Road, with the songs that lead up to it and those that bring it to an end.


Listening to Pallbearer’s “Devoid of Redemption” and Khemmis’s “Torn Asunder” makes me realize the question is not, are these bands really that good? Rather, can they sustain this?


The ending of Sorrow and Extinction is absolutely perfect.


I love that Nymph listens to Heartless constantly.

Also, listening to it now I realize something important about title tracks: they are not a reflection of what we think the best song is, they are what the band thinks the cornerstone of the album is. As much as I love Dancing in Madness I cannot imagine this album–and by extension, Pallbearer–without this track.


I also love that after spending weeks with Deafheaven and Alcest I can listen to the album Heartless and still be amazed.


I used to think “A Plea for Understanding” was a song I had to defend. Now I understand it is precisely why I love Pallbearer.


Foundations of Burden is their greatest, Heartless I love, but Sorrow and Extinction is my favorite. What does this mean? Shouldn’t their greatest be my favorite? Or to put it another way, how I can acknowledge something as not only great, but greater than that which I love?


The acoustic guitar work in “Foreigner” tells you everything you need to know about their songwriting.


On the path that leads / From here into oblivion

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