Release Date: Mar 24, 2017
Record label: Profound Lore
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Heavy Metal, Doom Metal
Restraint is a virtue far too frequently neglected in metal, replaced with displays of virtuosic skill. Of course, the danger that accompanies this approach is when it becomes utterly self-indulgent and masturbatory--a demonstration of raw ability usurping the craft behind the music's creation. With Heartless, however, Pallbearer embraces these oft-forgotten concepts and, in turn, delivers a master class in compositional restraint and subtle intricacy.
Pallbearer's third album, Heartless, is an epic and urgent meditation on our current moment. Its lyrics point toward the inward struggle of living a life encumbered by the weight of the past, but grounds this contemplation with gestures that point to greater problems in the world. On Heartless, the past is not only personal but, also, cultural—something shared and something that we are all complicit in.
Though largely associated with doom, Arkansas' Pallbearer take a more melodic approach than some; displaying clear prog influences and employing clean, passionate vocals with multi-part harmonies. A subtle evolution, Heartless boasts slightly glossier production than before, with a retro-rock glint shining through at times. The guitars are perhaps a little smoother, yet still reassuringly heavy.
After Pallbearer avoided the dreaded "sophomore slump" with 2014's killer Foundations of Burden, fan expectations run high, and rightfully so. It was so close to a perfect illustration of the band's growth (and an aesthetic shot in the arm for metal) that it raised expectations for what would come next. If Heartless offers anything out of the gate, it's that Pallbearer is relentless in their pursuit of musical growth on all fronts: Much tighter songwriting, canny self-production, poetic lyrics, elaborate melodic invention, well-placed dynamics, exploratory textures, and inspired performances.
On Pallbearer's newest doom-laced gospel Heartless, the band continue to carry the weight of its critical success following the release of Foundations of Burden without showing any signs of fatigue in their sound. In fact, Heartless presents a broader repertoire of tones and hospitality for melody than the quartet's previous two albums, bridging these various dynamic fluctuations with crushing, palm-muted riffs. A statement from the band regarding the release states that, "Instead of staring into to the void -- both above and within -- Heartless concentrates its power on a grim reality.
For some, the third album by lauded Arkansas quartet Pallbearer is a much-anticipated addition to the band's influential catalog of ethereal doom metal. Tracks like "Thorns" and "Dancing in Madness" continue the band's patented crossbreed of smoky chugs and far-out sonic filigrees, furthering the emotional edge of their sound. For others, the band's tendency towards soaring prettiness instead of sludge punishment might make Heartless a little light-handed, lacking the full steamroller crush of classic stoner rock outfits.
Rising metal stars Pallbearer have an unlikely fusion of influences: melancholic doom, prog that's more '80s slick than '70s technical, and a touch of Boston's hyper-produced hard rock. One couldn't have predicted they would go from cult metal festivals like Rites of Darkness to Bonnaroo in a few years. Pallbearer should be commended for making it this far with their sound, but Heartless, their third record, shows that they have run up against their limits.
Heartless by PALLBEARER After a busy few years, Arkansas' Pallbearer have improbably become minor critical darlings. The improbability comes from their idiom (funeral doom), their extension of it (via a modest progginess), and their open embrace of bright vocal harmonies. Something about it, though, just clicks with audiences who cry and sing every word at the band's live shows.
It's taken Arkansas doom outfit Pallbearer just eight years to clamber out from the underground and onto the sacred dais we like to call "the crossover". Their path to glory's an atypical one, considering how the quartet have generally steered clear of the usual catalysts for a metal band's mainstream rise--say, the hard rock metamorphoses that catapulted Mastodon and Baroness to festival main stages, or Deafheaven's head-turning merger of shoegaze and black metal. Instead, Pallbearer studied the dog-eared playbook drafted by pioneering acts like Pentagram, Saint Vitus, and Black Sabbath.