Written by: MIN on 05/10/2017 13:12:26

Things are going great for Pallbearer. Really great, actually. Both of their previous albums received high acclaim, most people praising the band for its particular brand of heavy yet uplifting melancholy that resonated both within and outside the (Doom) metal audience. Although “Foundations of Burden” only saw a slight change in sound from “Sorrow and Extinction”, the band’s third LP, “Heartless”, sees Pallbearer make a quantum leap in comparison. The liking to both Warning and My Dying Bride remains, but an increased focus on progressive- and retro-rock in the vein of Boston, Pink Floyd and Camel is highly evident. On “Heartless”, it feels like Pallbearer have shed the shackles that’s anchored them in Doom, creating an epic opus that doesn’t quite as much pull back and forth between soaring melodies and gloomy heaviness, but instead lets the wailing guitars fly higher than ever before.

Fret not, however, for the heaviness is still there. Just listen to the rolling guitar that opens up lead single “Thorns” (before the “Master of Puppets”-inspired solo halfway through, mind you) or the second half of the album’s title-track, only seconds prior to it turning into a melodic guitar-fest that’ll have you reaching for the depths of your heart in search for a deeper meaning in life. Beyond the short(er) rock songs and lengthy, melancholic soundscapes, what “Heartless” provides is a testament to just how much heart these guys actually have, and frankly it’s all for the better. While “Foundations of Burden” is one of the finest metal records of the decade, it would’ve been a shame if the band was to try and copy that sound instead of build upon it.

Pallbearer still don’t shy away from creating 10+ minute-long voyages, and on “Heartless” they give Steve Hackett a run for his money. The ever-changing record centerpiece “Dancing in Madness” is an examination in just how much feeling you can convey in a few perfectly timed chord-progressions, and album-closer “A Plea for Understanding” takes the band back to a somewhat lighter version of their previous, more Doom-oriented past while carrying less heavy layers of guitar and more somber atmosphere. The latter is a track where the huge guitars play long, slow notes and drummer Mark Lierly’s impeccable playing really gets to toy around in the back while remaining constantly rooted in the song’s sound. As Brett Campbell wails out the final words found within the record, it’s hard not to get a lump in the throat, partly due to the band’s collective timing and feel for the music they play:

Behind the eyes lies a truth // So deeply concealed // Somewhere inside is a place // Where the weary rest and heal // Anger, fear and regret keep the darkness at hand // But these feelings are real // All I ask, won’t you please understand?

Through their career, Brett Campbell has become an increasingly talented vocalist, and “Heartless” is the culmination of his transformation so far. Behind him, bassist Joseph Rowland puts down a thick layer of bass to either create foundation or lurch forward depending on the song’s tempo, only over-shadowed by Devin Holt’s impressive guitar-playing. Every member in Pallbearer is immensely talented, and their individual efforts are greatly emphasized on “Heartless”, where an excellent production helps everything sound grand and fresh. I would, however, advice you not to listen to the record on mere mp3-files as, every time I’ve done so, it feels like the format just don’t cut it the way physical media or larger files do – almost as if Pallbearer’s sound is too big.

Whether engaging in more conventional song writing or slowly creeping through another odyssey, Pallbearer sounds unique. Surely, several songs on “Heartless” will feel too long for some listeners, while a few older fans might get turned off by the band’s change in sound, but if you’re into it, “Heartless” is one of the few true gems of 2017, and Pallbearer proves just why they’re one of the most exciting and interesting bands around. If there was a mild slight on the record, it’d have to be “Cruel Road” for not carrying the same emotional punch as the remaining songs (perhaps leaning a bit too much on the 70s rock), but it’s still entertaining and helps pick up the pace halfway through the hour-long album. Just as they’ve done on their previous full-length outings, Pallbearer have created something truly special with “Heartless”, a strong contender for album of the year.


Download: I Saw the End, Thorns, Dancing in Madness, A Plea for Understanding
For The Fans Of: Warning, Khemmis, 40 Watt Sun, Genesis, Pink Floyd, Camel
Listen: Facebook

Release date 24.03.2017
Nuclear Blast

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