By Justin Bates
Pallbearer‘s proclivity to combine profound gloom and melancholy with a primal heaviness is a recipe for success and its one they’ve mastered over the years. The band has teased us a little over the past several weeks, releasing a couple of singles in the lead-up to release of their third record “Heartless,” but on Friday’s release date, it was a gloomy, rainy day in Arkansas, the home state of the doom metal kings, so it was as fitting an atmosphere as any to sit down for the first time to digest the record in full.
Pallbearer doesn’t stray too far from its weighty prog rock-doom metal roots, but “Heartless” sees the band taking things a step further. Perhaps its on “Heartless” where we see Pallbearer shed its doom metal skin for something more fitting: progressive rock, with a metal influence. Album opener “I Saw the End” delivers the band’s distinct sound and adds a dash of melodic complexity, setting the table for the LP’s full diet of artistic vocal exploration and Pink Floyd-esque musical uniqueness. The band is at its best in these moments, when it forges ahead with all of the powerful, lumbering sludge it can muster up, evident on numbers such as “Thorns” and the brutal “Cruel Road.” But Pallbearer, as if it wasn’t already evident with its excellent back-catalog, proves its mettle on more adventurous tracks such as “Lie of Survival,” with bassist Joe Rowland expanding the band’s palate with synths, and “Dancing in Madness,” with it’s churning, heavy guitar work and Yes-like dreamy interludes.
It’s not your prototypical metal band, in that Pallbearer doesn’t shred or get to things too quickly. Rather, Pallbearer’s music moves you with a gutteral, slow and steady persistence. Album closer “A Plea for Understanding” is one of the standout tracks. Clocking in at nearly 13 minutes, the track offers harmonic overlays and gut wrenching sadness and provides the listener with a sense of escape, and a sense of longing. “But no fire can burn without the setting of a spark,” vocalist Brett Campbell yearns on the track.
If anything, “Heartless” is a stepping stone to greater things for a band who has already proven so much. We can’t be more excited to see what’s next for them.
Pallbearer are on tour now.