The Heartless Pallbearer
Pallbearer is no stranger to heavy riffs and soaring vocals. Their third full length, Heartless, is more refined and meatier than their previous albums. Whereas most doom metal tends to be overwhelmingly minor, Pallbearer’s latest somehow manages to shift the standard melancholy tones of the genre into something uplifting and resilient.
Heartless begins with the track “I Saw The End.” The song begins with a hook-filled lead and the rhythm following far behind (both in terms of time and acoustic space). “I Saw The End” has a Ghost-like feel–with its vocals being fore-loaded in the mix. That said, the song still bubbles with grimey and heavy riffs. “I Saw The End” unfurls cleaner than most doom metal songs. Its parts are more defined, its repetition more predictable. Rather than being a weakness, this cleanliness adds to the track’s hypnotic feel, a feeling that is disrupted at with the ending solo.
From this initial track, Pallbearer dives into the heavier tracks (“Thorn” and “Lie of Survival”). Both of these tracks spin in a heavier vein than “I Saw The End.” Despite their more brutal riffage, there is still something reassuring in the band’s fracas–perhaps its the highly major solos or vocal stylings. Whatever it may be, the juxtaposition between doomy rhythms and light counterpoints does well to make each track on Heartless pop with electricity.
Even the second longest song, “Dancing in Madness,” hums electric as it twists through its parts. The almost 12 minute ballad is a point of light in Heartless, a palette cleanser between the first and second halves of the album. “Dancing in Madness” is an aural feast for doom fans and a return to the sound that had dominated much of Pallbearer’s earlier releases. Highly effected vocals pound through the turgid riffs while incendiary leads punctuate the song.
The second half of Heartless is heavier and more psychedelic than the first. Acting as the duende, the darker force of the self, the album’s concluding half is more traditionally doom without acquiescing fully into all of the genre’s conventions. This seems to be a good way to organize the physical record. A double LP pressed on clear vinyl, Heartless seems to be divided between its uplifting sounds on disc one and its doomier aesthetics on disc two.
The album ends with “A Plea for Understanding,” an almost 13 minute burner. Like “Dancing in Madness,” the final song joins together swirling beauty with turgid and punishing riffs. One of the heaviest Pallbearer tracks I’ve heard, “A Plea for Understanding” burns hot despite its slow tempo. Part of the heat comes from the song’s core–a hearty and psychedelic lead. Like much of Heartless, the song knows how to balance noise and beauty to maximize each effect. From start to end, the album is a testament to Pallbearer’s mastery of their craft.