Review Summary: Lay to rest your troubled mind
"Heartless" is the most recent outing from Little Rock, Arkansas Doom metal band Pallbearer. This record retains a sound that's uniquely its own while not coming across as anything distinctly outside the box. It's slow, mournful doom through the entirety, but it's how it works within these boundaries that's simply magnificent. It's as serene as a gentle gale gliding across the fields of the Midwest, yet somehow still remains crushingly heavy and as brooding as a looming storm. This album strikes the perfect balance of two seemingly different yet very similar emotions-hope and despair.
The guitar work has so much to attribute to this sharp contrast of emotions. There are rocking, groovy riffs and subtle ambient pieces of sweet, somber guitar work that combine in perfect union. Off the track "Thorns" this is shown incredibly well, as a rather haunting quiet acoustic perfectly transitions into this monstrous wall of a riff. It's pieces like this that create such a distinct difference in emotions. You have the tear-jerking intro to "Life of Survival", then you also have the almost whimsical, curious bridge in the first track "I Saw The End". While the somber, beautiful guitar work is probably the strongest point of this record and almost definitely is the largest focus, it'd be entirely wrong to say it works alone.
The vocals themselves are simply encumbered with lament. The way they trudge through the record makes the vocals so harrowing yet blissful. As depressing as they are, it's difficult to not slip into a world of comatose, to find a sweet release from the staggering burdens of life. There isn't anything spectacular in his voice, and yet there is simply a sincerity in his mournful wails. Take the epic 11 minute track "Dancing in Madness". Here the vocals are brimming with anguish, but there's a comfort in it. Almost like in the mournful soundscape, there are glimmers of light strewn about. There is a sense of hope.
Perhaps that is why hope and despair are so similar. Without despair, there cannot be hope, and vice versa. There is something beautiful in the pain we all feel, knowing that for such a pain to have occurred we must have known what happiness felt like, and in that there is hope. The pain we feel in salvation is what drives the human soul in motion, for although we may be the pallbearers to our own lives, we also grant our own access a better world. With that in mind, why be so heartless in such an unforgiving world? Sometimes it's bands like Pallbearer that remind us of this.