Review Summary: "Heartless" is a modern classic of its genre.
Unusually, in an age where bands can spend up to a decade gradually digging their way through underground obscurity, Arkansas’ sombre quartet Pallbearer promptly broke the hardened surface of mainstream familiarity after their passionately received debut album, “Sorrow and Extinction”
, dropped in 2012. Blending enchantments of hope and optimism with grim solemnity, Pallbearer projects a sorrowful soundscape that has a simultaneously heart-warming and soul-destroying impact on people. Continuing this unique style, but ever evolving, Pallbearer now drives their reputation into newer realms with their third album, “Heartless”
As well as creating a brilliant album, Pallbearer thwarts the dreaded expectation that followed 2014’s stellar “Foundations of Burden”
. Rather than simply build on this foundation, making the subsequent album sound the same, only bigger and better, Pallbearer opts to broaden their creative minds even further. “Lie of Survival” is a delicate track where Devin Holt’s sparsely-decorated guitars drift around waves of subtle psychedelic synthesiser- even as the main riff kicks in, the pace retains a slow, contemplative tempo. The echoing effect that Brett Campbell’s vocals use throughout the album creates a churchlike quality to them, enhancing the comforting aura that Pallbearer establishes. This effect is most triumphant in the album closer: “A Plea for Understanding”. Standing at nearly 13 minutes, the song is dedicated to ending the album with an emotionally crushing climax. Hopeful melodies dance and twist around the melancholy riffs and, with Campbell’s isolated echoing voice and yearning lyrics, Pallbearer evokes a feeling of sincere adoration and suffered acceptance.
Despite these new attributes, this is still a doom record and Pallbearer proves that while they can be moving, they can also be monstrous. Zooming along at the speed of a milk float, “Cruel Road” offers the fastest pace that this album reaches. Lugubrious riffs distort into a thumping rhythm as Mark Lierly’s subtle drum fills and Joseph Rowland’s rumbling bass guide the band along an anchored journey through a brief solo, so fuzzy that it sounds like a dive-bombing Spitfire, and back out again. Opening the album and neatly balancing Pallbearer’s typical characteristics with their latest styles, “I Saw The End” fluctuates between pitter-patter prog rock interplay and slumped doom-ridden riffs. Fans of Pallbearer are even assured that “Heartless”
is still truly a doom album before listening to it as “Heartless”
is subtitled: “A long playing record by…” above the album art.
If there is one negative to pick from “Heartless”
, it is that Pallbearer occasionally draws heavy influences from their peers and inject it into their own spacious sound. The structure and atmosphere of “Dancing in Madness” is reminiscent of the title track to My Dying Bride’s “The Dreadful Hours”
from the innocent introduction to the deep, commanding grooves, all while maintaining the distraught, cavernous aura that My Dying Bride are renowned for. Furthermore, a murky Sleep/Electric Wizard quality emerges in the solos during “Thorns” and “Cruel Road” that contradict Pallbearer’s cleaner aesthetic. It’s interesting to hear these influences interpreted in Pallbearer’s dialect however for a band as imaginative as them, they don’t need to rely on influences from others.
is a modern classic for its genre. Pallbearer nail exactly what successful doom metal should be: the songs don’t drag along motionlessly and they’re drenched in atmosphere and wreathed in honest emotion. Additionally, the production is fantastic so all these attributes coexist synchronously. Doubtless, this album can only propel Pallbearer further in their primacy over the underground scene.