Little Rock, Arkansas' Pallbearer are a doom metal quartet whose penchant for extreme, monstrously thick heaviness has drawn fans from across the globe. With a sound rooted in the slow, riff-centric traditions pioneered by Black Sabbath, the band's approach is appended by a neo-psychedelic application of guitar harmony and later on, prog elements. It was initially showcased on a three-song demo that included a cover of the Billie Holiday standard "Gloomy Sunday." They hardwired that guitar interplay into their core sound on their 2012 debut album Sorrow and Extinction. Live and on recordings, Pallbearer graft layers of impenetrably sludgy guitars onto an impossibly thick wall of oppressive, throbbing, bass-and-drum-kit bleakness that envelops the listener. 2014's charting Foundations of Burden added a more glacial feel but retained the band's textures and dynamics thanks in part to producer Billy Anderson's mix. Their third full-length, 2017's Heartless, marked their international breakthrough as it reached the top spot on several charts. The single "Atlantis" appeared in 2019. Pallbearer's original lineup came together out of the local metal scene in 2008, with Brett Campbell (guitars/vocals), Devin Holt (guitars), and Joseph D. Rowland (bass); their drum chair remained in flux until 2012 when Mark Lierly joined the band. After woodshedding for two years, developing a sound as bleak and oppressive as it was melodically expansive, Pallbearer issued a widely acclaimed self-titled demo in 2010 using drummer Zach Stine. In addition to the near iconic, ear-shattering cover of "Gloomy Sunday," the set included the originals "The Legend" and "Devoid of Redemption." These two songs in particular -- along with the band's burgeoning live reputation, drew the interest of record label Profound Lore. They signed Pallbearer and released their 2012 debut album Sorrow and Extinction. They also contributed two tracks to a split-label showcase with YOB, Atlas Moth, Loss, and Wolvhammer. Stine left the band in 2011 and was replaced with Chuck Schaff as Pallbearer undertook a world tour. Before re-entering the studio, the band replaced Schaaf with Lierly in the drum chair. He made his recording debut with the group on 2014's Foundations of Burden. Produced and mixed by Billy Anderson (Neurosis, Swans, Sleep), the record was greeted with enthusiasm from both the metal and mainstream rock press. Commercially, it registered well inside the front half of the Top 200, but also placed on half-a-dozen other charts. The band toured internationally for the next year-and-a-half, playing headline and support shows in clubs, theaters, and at large festivals. The three-track Fear & Fury EP followed in 2016. With a more hook-laden -- but no less heavy -- sound, it revealed the band's musical progression. They spent the remainder of the summer recording their third full-length studio date. Self-produced and recorded to analog tape at Fellowship Hall Sound in Little Rock, it was mixed by Joe Barresi (Queens of the Stone Age, Tool, Melvins, Soundgarden). Prefaced by the release of singles "Thorns" and "I Saw the End," Pallbearer released the full-length Heartless through Profound Lore in March of 2017. It was initially greeted with a little consternation by some early fans (read "purists") who didn't enjoy its more polished and textured production and proggish melodic and instrumental interludes. Pallbearer expected this and took it in stride as they went out on tour. What they didn't expect, however, was to be embraced by rock and indie audiences. The album got international airplay, topped the Heatseekers chart, and placed inside the Top Ten at Hard Rock albums and in the Top Three at streaming. The band's nearly two-year-long tour saw them headlining most of the festivals they played, and netting record sales. While on the road, they issued a pair of singles in 2018. April saw the digital only release of "Dropout," a brand-new song, cut for the Adult Swim Singles Program. In September, Pallbearer released their cover of Pink Floyd's "Run Like Hell" to streaming. The band spent the front half of 2019 on the road playing in Europe, South America, and the United States. They issued a two- sided digital single in June: "Atlantis" b/w a live version of "Thorns." They spent the remainder of 2019 and early 2020 in intermittent recording sessions at West Texas studio Sonic Ranch with Randall Dunn (Sunn O))), Earth, Johan Johannson). In July they announced the imminent release of fourth album, Forgotten Days with a Ben Meredith-directed video for its title track. The full-length was released in October.
© Gregory Heaney & Thom Jurek /TiVo
© Gregory Heaney & Thom Jurek /TiVo
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Rock - Released October 23, 2020 | Nuclear Blast
In the 2010s, Pallbearer gave doom metal a new face. The Little Rock, Arkansas, band emerged in 2012 with a lauded debut, Sorrow and Extinction, that immediately placed them in the upper echelon of broiling riff lords. It was a classic doom record through and through (five songs clocking in at 48 minutes, beginning with a 12-minute opener) but 2014's Foundations of Burden and 2017's Heartless pushed their sound into more melodic and proggy territory, respectively. Given their technical proficiency and frontman Brett Campbell's soaring voice—which sounds like a cross between Ozzy Osbourne and Mastodon's Brann Dailor—their aspirations to break beyond the ceiling of their root genre made sense, and those records were roundly praised by critics and fans alike. On their fourth album and first since jumping from the tastemaking label Profound Lore to the career-securing institution Nuclear Blast, Pallbearer have taken a venn diagram approach to their discography. Forgotten Days is a return to the primitive heaviness of their debut that doesn't forego the grand elements they introduced on their last two projects. The title track opener is perhaps the purest distillation of the Pallbearer sound: a mountainous yet chuggy riff, Campbell's anthemic belt, and a righteously noisy guitar solo. The 12-minute centerpiece "Silver Wings" is a trudging doom track with candlelit leads that add a touch of brightness to an otherwise cavernous affair. It features two epic solos, the latter congealing with beaming synths that seem to swoop in and out of the darkness. It might be the most impressive song on the record, but the two tracks that follow are the most satisfying. The sludgy riff in "The Quicksand Existing" has a Sabbath-like crunch that bolsters a truly ripping solo (the album's best), and the song transitions seamlessly into the bludgeoning "Vengeance and Ruination," which features a positively evil lead lick. Pallbearer are a doom band at their core, so they always sound the most locked-in when the low and slow riffs drag due to their sheer weight. However, their most interesting moments arrive when they add melodic and/or virtuosic flair on top of their earthy heaviness—the surprisingly hooky and gotchi outro track, "Caledonia," is a fascinating and memorable way to go out. Forgotten Days takes a few tracks to pick up, but on the whole it's the most comprehensive and finely-tuned Pallbearer record to date. © Eli Enis/Qobuz
Rock - Released March 24, 2017 | Nuclear Blast Entertainment
After Pallbearer avoided the dreaded "sophomore slump" with 2014's killer Foundations of Burden, fan expectations run high, and rightfully so. It was so close to a perfect illustration of the band's growth (and an aesthetic shot in the arm for metal) that it raised expectations for what would come next. If Heartless offers anything out of the gate, it's that Pallbearer is relentless in their pursuit of musical growth on all fronts: Much tighter songwriting, canny self-production, poetic lyrics, elaborate melodic invention, well-placed dynamics, exploratory textures, and inspired performances. Over seven songs that run nearly an hour, Pallbearer reveal more confidence and sophistication than anyone could have expected. Brett Campbell's singing showed improvement on Foundations of Burden over its predecessor, but was still somewhat unconvincing. No longer. His voice is as much a dominant focal point as the band's punishing riffs. He lyrical delivery of these tunes is authoritative; he fully inhabits the emotional depths these songs plumb. The interplay between his and Devin Holt's guitars is more intricate and empathic (check the labyrinthine opener "I Saw the End" or the opening third of "Dancing in Madness" for incontrovertible proof). Joe Rowland's bass has a more prominent role in this mix. What's more, his lyrics (including sole authorship of the title track) shine darkly as they tread the caverns of loss and grief. Drummer Mark Lierly tight-rope walks between chugging grooves, plodding thuds, and low-end engineering. "I Saw the End" is a beautiful illustration of prog metal's new place of prominence; it's inseparable from the band's persona. That said, their trademark Black Sabbath riff consciousness in both "Thorns" and the bone-cracking "Cruel Road," underscores that crushing doom lies at the heart of what they do best. "Lie of Survival" may open gently, but entwined twin leads, a detuned bassline, and rolling tom and kick drums create the backdrop for the most emotionally devastating track here. While the first few seconds of the title track offer an acoustic guitar, it explodes shortly thereafter with wide-open riffing, sprawling sonic washes. and power, yet offers a complex melody. Despite the attractiveness and immediacy Heartless offers -- an album that will doubtless attract an even wider legion of fans -- it will take repeated listens to absorb everything on offer. While it may be hard to resist comparisons between this and Foundations of Burden, they're fruitless. Heartless is a whole different thing: it delivers the sound of a mature band coming into its own and learning to utilize its various strengths. Pallbearer never forsake their origins, but they refuse to be bound by them as they pursue unmapped terrain. © Thom Jurek /TiVo
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