With guitars tuned so low it sounds like they're strumming bridge cables -- gloriously distorted bridge cables -- set against soaring, perfectly keyed vocals, there are moments on this beautiful and intense record that almost sound like Mass. Indeed, the Little Rock quartet's highly anticipated debut, following on the buzz of their 2010 three song demo, feels gothic -- not in the sensitive, eyemakeup sense, but in the traditional, anti-classicist sense. Simon Schama captures it when he quotes Bishop Warburton: " 'Our Gothic ancestors had juster and manlier notions than modern mimicks of Greek and Roman magnificence,' for they were more concerned with spiritual exaltation than civic pomp." Pallbearer's brand of doom metal is gothic in that it's earthy and slow, but that's merely redolent of the genre conventions. On Sorrow and Extinction, though, there's always something else pushing it further, whether it be singer guitarist Brett Campbell's Osbourne-meets-Halford wail or the beautiful, linear leads strewn throughout these five epic-length songs.
Come on, have a listen. Here's the centerpiece of the record, "The Legend", which, satisfyingly, begins (after the distorted intro) on the same two half-notes that formed the basis of the dominant theme of the preceding song. It makes it sound like they're about to head back into that song, and then erupts into something entirely different. I promise it's really cool even if you haven't heard the earlier song
Again, you'll get that gothic, arboreal sensation taking in the last track, "Given to the Grave", where waves of bar chords support a slow lead, then retreat to a quiet guitar and drum interlude before exploding into the most chaotic and unhinged segment of the record. The double solo of the last three minutes could pass for a couple of Steve Howes ripping leads across the end of "Siberian Khatru." Brilliant.
Pallbearer are brought to us courtesy of Ontario's Profound Lore Records, which consistently produces some of the most interesting, challenging, yet listenable extreme music being recorded today (think Yob, Agalloch, Krallice).
Go see Pallbearer live. Not a lot of dates right now, but you can check them at the Pallbearer website. Here's a very decent live video of the band playing the album opener, "Foreigner".