Since forming in 2008 in Arkansas, Pallbearer have engineered an exciting career built upon a stunning delivery of Doom Metal. Unlike other bands of the genre, though, Pallbearer have refused to simply rehash Sabbath riffs long-soaked in the heaviness of resin-filled esoteric bong water. Instead, Pallbearer have opted to embrace the genre as a vehicle for their seminal approach to crafting high-quality music. Three long years have passed since the band’s last release, Heartless. Now, Pallbearer stand with the support of the full weight of Metal powerhouse label, Nuclear Blast Records, behind them. With expert producer Randall Dunn behind the helm, the band stands ready to unleash the result of their hard work. It was certainly well worth the wait.
In the latter half of the first track, singer Brett Campbell (who also plays guitar and synthesizer) exclaims, “times have changed, but so have I, all these faces I don’t recognize”. The last syllable echoes, forlorn and reverberating in the dark, and the band then resumes their hypnotic sway. It is at this moment perhaps that one is first revealed the scale of this album. The ensuing riff is dystopian, gargantuan, megalithic, even! One becomes enraptured in the ensuing spiral of dizzying, intoxicating, lushly haunting riffs while the decadent solo framed the borders of sanity peaking out from just over the edge. This is not just a band that has found their sound, but more so a tour de force, a lightning rod calling forth the electricity of discovery.
As that first track so dutifully illuminates this heavy-handed approach indicative of the band’s place in time, so the record begins to issue forth a massive call to arms, a roll call for those who have been disillusioned with the state of heavy music. How does such a young band qualify to rally vast swaths of music fans worldwide? The answer is by having infallible influences and a dedication to exploring the greater themes and melodies that forever cemented bands as disparate as King Crimson, Type O Negative, and Soundgarden among the annals of the elite within heavy music.
“Riverbed,” the second track, is another opportunity for Pallbearer to tout their new heightened sense of dynamics. Unlike some of the band’s more recent releases, a track like this shows a dedication to exploring that primordial heaviness that catalyzed their very career. That beating heart of emotion still runs through the middle of their creation, though with an honesty that speaks to the world-weariness endured by us all.
The studio work behind the scenes is what truly helps to bring out this new evolution of the Pallbearer sound. Having worked with bands from Sunn O))) to Wolves in the Throne Room, Randall Dunn brings know-how as reflected by his resume. There is at once both an organic element to the sound and one that reaches far beyond past efforts. The guitar parts are layered effectively without sacrificing either the lethality of the riffs or expressionism of the leads. It is a rich, lively sound, one that is expanded by additional guitar tracks and effects rather than squashed by it. Thankfully, the bass is never buried in the mix retaining its dirty grunge throughout while tightly locked in with the drums. The mix of synth and lead guitar work succeeds at beautifully decorating the sound with emotive textures and vivid melodic statements. Campbell’s vocals pierce deep within the listener as they further develop the rich melodic quality of the music and put their own unique stamp upon the results. Any objective music lover will be unable to resist the tug upon the heartstrings that ensues when playing this record, truly the stuff of legend.
The fourth track, “Silver Wings,” is the most epic moment of the album and at over twelve and a half minutes, it is also the longest. There is a regal quality to the track as it has a very palpable elegance. Years before Pallbearer were formed, Type O Negative formed their own signature approach by combining the Doom of Sabbath with Gothic camp and Hardcore/Crossover aggression. Unequivocally, the Drab Four’s influence can be heard in this long tribute to gloomy dirges illuminated by melodic rays of hope. As Type O Negative profoundly moved Doom Metal forward in the ‘90s and beyond, Pallbearer is following suit albeit with their own personal-flavored color and swagger. Pallbearer have colored their Doom with everything from Prog and Space Rock to the influence of Seattle über-titans who changed the landscape in the ‘90s. While evoking such a wide variety of styles, though, Pallbearer manage not to lose an ounce of heaviness, the mark of true greatness.
It is not altogether nonsensical for someone to have become jaded in the wake of the new face of the music industry. While it seems that the standards of long ago have been foregone in many cases with labels only signing bands that neatly fit into categories, all hope must seem lost. Pallbearer is one of the few bands to bring hope across the board for this is the same record to play for your Metal friends and your dad who is into Pink Floyd and Rush. Like those greats of yesteryear, Pallbearer is bravely forging ahead in a voyage of discovery. Along with Yob, they are simply the brightest star to shine in the scene of American Doom Metal.