Pallbearer’s return with their third album, Heartless, is a subtle step forward for the band as they carefully refine their thick yet polished style of long-form doom. It’s an album that draws on the strengths of doom acts of ages past while presenting something distinctively its own – not so much drastically changing the formula of presenting serpentine lead guitar over grunting low-end doom riffs, but rather taking the time to slowly improve on what’s there.
In saying that, there’s plenty to grip on to on a track by track basis with Heartless – the music invigorates the listener at every turn. Opening track I Saw The End cuts open with the familiar vocals of Brett Campbell, Osbourne-esque in feel and complementary to the slow hypnotic doom presented by the rest of the band. Thorns seems to be inspired by an almost Egyptian/middle eastern feel in a sense, sticking to a slightly unexpected riffing scale – it’s full of juicy sprawling guitar solos, indulgent to any serious metalhead’s primal urges. Lie Of Survival splits a line between crushing and soulful, closing with this beautiful near clean riff at the end of the track, isolated and forlorn. Dancing In Madness offers a wistful introduction with the use of synths, adding something akin to a mournful eighties rock guitar solo which brings the song to rise. The entire album is full of these passionate twists and turns in each long-winded song, and in many ways it’s defined by these moments.
Above the rest of these tracks, the concluding song, A Plea For Understanding, is the drawn out finale that Heartless never knew it needed. The fuzz coming from each instrument, the way the notes bleed into the next and the triumphant feel from the lead guitar’s riff work is an overwhelming testament to the composing skills of Pallbearer. Beyond this, the use of flanged guitar riffs, ambling song structure and Campbell’s prowess with both vocal range and heartfelt lyrics ensures that the run to Heartless’ finish line is gripping to the last second. Of all the tracks on Heartless, A Plea For Understanding comes off as a mould breaker on an album of relatively similar tracks – it’s a direction that Pallbearer hopefully continue to expand on with future releases.
Heartless has a reflective feel that draws back on old styles of music and throws them into the modern world without making them seem dated or old. The entire album seems to delve in a sense of balance both conceptually and instrumentally; it re-interprets old styles of metal while creating a strong contemporary doom sound, along with the lead and the rhythm guitars being at opposite ends of the spectrum – the lead soaring high over the rhythm’s crushing lows. It’s that sweet spot between heavy and calm, old and new, and the final boon of this fusion presents a product that should appeal to both young and old doom fans alike.
Pallbearer's Heartless can be streamed or purchased from Profound Lore Records' Bandcamp, located here.