Review Summary: I think Pallbearer may still be in my “appreciation” box but Heartless is the most engaging album they’ve put out so far
At the risk of losing my doom cred, I must admit that Pallbearer is one of those bands that I feel like I’ve “appreciated” more than I actually “liked.” They’ve got some excellent songs to their name and deserve their success for the massive influence they’ve already had in the post-Warning world of sad boy jams, but their less riff-oriented approach to traditional doom has made them somewhat unengaging. Their third full-length album doesn’t distant itself too far from past efforts but it does hint at a different direction on the horizon.
The changes are subtle at first as “I Saw the End” starts things off. The guitar still utilizes shoegaze-inspired chord progressions and the vocals are as mopey as ever, but the production gives the singing much more clarity and confidence while the instrumental break shows off some prog influence that hadn’t been quite as prominent before. From there, “Thorns” follows this up with a more active riff set than usual and “Lie of Survival” is an especially depressing ballad in the grand Patrick Walker tradition.
While the first half is pleasant enough, the last three songs are where Heartless gets truly interesting. Pallbearer has never made a more aggressive song than “Cruel Road” as the tempo picks up the pace, the guitars take on more Neurosis-style chugging, and the vocals mix the melodic laments with some distorted, almost Ministry-esque barks. “A Plea for Understanding” is also worth noting as the guitar is completely immersed in David Gilmour territory while the vocals are at their most dynamic as a subdued baritone leads to especially cathartic choruses.
I think Pallbearer may still be in my “appreciation” box but Heartless is the most engaging album they’ve put out so far. Much of the songwriting is still merited by the emotional intent and structure transitions rather than the actual compositions, but working in the changes over the course of the album does result in some powerful tracks toward the end. Heartless may not win you over if you’ve not enjoyed the band’s previous work and it still requires listeners to be in a certain mood while listening, but Pallbearer is clearly going somewhere.
”Lie of Survival”
“A Plea for Understanding”
Originally published at http://psychicshorts.blogspot.com