Pallbearer – Heartless (Released March 24, 2017 – Profound Lore Records)
I remember the awe that came with my first listen of Pallbearer’s debut, Sorrow and Extinction. It was beautiful, moving, and completely different from anything I had heard before. The slow crawl of guitars and riffs like boulders tumbling in slow motion were entrancing and Brett Campbell’s clean vocals were uplifting and cathartic. The opening notes of Foreigner caught me and I was held until the final fade of Given to the Grave. But, within all the awe Sorrow and Extinction was depressing and bleak, beautiful yes, but bleak. Heartless, though, is bright and hopeful. Before Pallbearer stared deep into the void but now they have turned their backs on the void to venture back out to life.
Extremely individual, Pallbearer produce music with rich feeling and powerful instrumentation. The leads are glorious, along with his vocalization Brett Campbell’s guitar chops have grown and he displays his talents beautifully throughout. The closing solo to I Saw the End is enthralling and breaks from any structure, existing just for the sake of being awesome. Rocky and groovy, Thorns is buoyed by a catchy palm muted run throughout and pushes the speed from a slow crawl to a quick canter. The whole track is sludgy goodness and is capped by a gorgeous winding solo. The feel that is conveyed in each solo is captured within Lie of Survival as the opening notes are captivating. Dancing in Madness is angry and harsh and paired with the effects of Cruel Road make for unifying pair. Making up the centre of the album the two tracks convey an angrier feeling than the opening half. Listening to the title track I felt like I was drowning. The entire track was in slow motion and closed with an awesome drum solo over feedback. Campbell delivers an amazing vocal performance throughout but his highlight is the large open spaces he fills on A Plea for Understanding. His vocals take over as the instruments fade into the background, he changes his style ever so slightly, going to a rocky rough edge from the expected harmony.
There are so many layers to this album yet nothing gets smothered under the fuzz. The touch of every note is felt distinctly as all the instruments come through crystal clear. Unlike their back catalog Heartless did not have a bleak emptiness to it, instead of being spacey it was a caressing, like a light wind. Heatless is the sensible evolution of Pallbearer’s sound and a great addition to what is becoming a storied discography.