To call Pallbearer simply a Metal band is to do the Arkansas-based quartet a grave injustice. The band definitely has made a name for itself through an evocative and sharply honed variant of Black Sabbath-style Doom Metal, but dropping the group into that one niche ignores its moments of haunting melody, beauty and, at times, even hope. Of course, there’s no denying Pallbearer’s heavier roots once it winds up the riffs and slams them squarely across your chest.
Since its first full-length was released in 2012, Pallbearer has been iterating on the formula set forth by Doom’s forefathers. While Sorrow and Extinction explored the boundaries beyond Black Sabbath’s sludgy recipe, 2014’s Foundations of Burden pushed the band further away from a reliance purely on auditory assault and gave the tracks even more room to breathe.
That experimentation reached a new height with the band’s most recent release, 2017’s Heartless. On the album, Pallbearer follows the branches that extend from Metal’s roots and intersperses the clambering tomes with hints (or outright elements) of genres like Prog and Classic Rock. What emerges are tracks that wrap around the listener and draw them deep into the calming depths, lulled into security by vocalist Brett Campbell’s powerful but soothing singing before rocking the boat — or shaking it violently — with rumbling Heavy Metal power. Songs like “Thorns” are built upon a Metal foundation, flowing on a rolling and romping riff before becoming a more introspective melody.
This dichotomy can be divisive, especially for adamant fans of one musical camp or another. Pallbearer doesn’t quite drive as hard as some of its Doom Metal colleagues, but the group still brings a noise that may cut into a listener’s blissful journey. When a band assembles so many layers, there’s bound to be some necessary acclimation. Luckily, the journey is half the reward; Pallbearer creates albums for tall speakers, dim lights and big, comfy couches. These are tracks to be experienced; whether they’re heavy enough for you is another matter. What does matter is everything Pallbearer has done to surround the Doom with a complex layer of variety and depth.