Since the release of ‘Foundations of Burden’ in 2014, Arkansas Doom Metal quartet Pallbearer have gone from strength to strength. The recognition they deserve is starting to reach them from fans of all musical genres. The beauty in their music allows even the most sceptical of listeners to step back and listen to their often breath-taking combination of soaring melody, slow tempo, ethereal vocals and crushing guitar tone with a complete sense of awe. That’s pretty much Pallbearer in a nutshell. If you haven’t heard of these guys then some serious homework is recommended.
Heartless (2017) is the third studio release by these guys. Prior to release, fans were treated to two tracks from the album, ‘I Saw the End’ and ‘Thorns’. These two tracks are sequential on the album and ‘I Saw the End’ opens it up perfectly. It allows first time listeners to be introduced to that mammoth Pallbearer sound. Fans will notice that the production budget has definitely increased; we hear those crunching tones so familiar from previous alum ‘Foundations of Burden’ but those guitars have more bite, the vocals have more reverb, the drums have more of a punch and the bass brings the dynamic together in a much more abrasive fashion.
The second track ‘Thorns’ is an almost guaranteed live track, clocking in at five and a half minutes. The track length makes Pallbearer approachable to the average listener (attention span doesn’t go very far these days), something that they have never really dabbled in before. We are also introduced to another new dynamic in the form of a guitar solo. Before, we have heard soaring lead lines but never really a conventional guitar solo. In fact the addition of the guitar solo is the most noticeably new dynamic throughout this album. It’s a great thing. It reveals to the listener just how talented guitarists Devin Holt and Brett Campbell are.
The progression of the guitarists is most noticeable on ‘Dancing in Madness’. The track starts out sounding like a Pink Floyd song. Even down to the tone of the lead guitar, someone has been channeling Dave Gilmour. It honestly wouldn’t sound out of place on The Division Bell. Even with the style of riffs and melodies, the record is as complex as it is progressive. Half way through this track we get introduced to the first real heavy section of the album. Even the vocals are heavy. They sound like something Al Cisneros would do on one of the earlier Sleep albums. Another new dynamic for these guys and this track in particular highlights the incredible talent of vocalist Brett Campbell. His ability to pick out a melody is a talent rarely found in Doom Metal and his talent allows Pallbearer to open the door to a whole new audience.
The album progresses to what may be the heaviest track on the record ‘Cruel Road’ before transcending into the title track ‘Heartless’. This track aptly captures the spirit of this album; the eight minute song includes most of the dynamics found throughout and totally justifies being the album’s title track.
The record comes to a close with ‘A Plea for Understanding’, which is the longest track on the album at nearly thirteen minutes. The longer, the better with Pallbearer as time seems to allow them to progress to exactly where they need to be. This is a classic Pallbearer track. The haunting clean sections and gritty distortion ring a perfect conclusion to an absolute feeling of an album. In fact, that is exactly how I’m going to summarise this album. It is a feeling. They have managed to capture what a lot of melodic Metal bands have attempted for years. With the release of ‘Heartless’, Pallbearer have proven to the world that they have completely mastered their sound though feeling, a skill that few bands possess and these guys keep going from strength to strength. It’s going to take something extra special to dethrone ‘Heartless’ from album of the year. My words do not do it justice. Go buy it and feel for yourself.