Released: 2012, Profound Lore Records
Reviewer: Aaron Yurkiewicz
I listen to a lot of doom metal. Particularly, I listen to a lot of demos and self released material, since that’s where most of the really good stuff seems to be found these days. There’s plenty of crap out there for sure, but there’s also plenty of gems to be found as well. A while back, I came across an unassuming 3-song demo from a band named Pallbearer and having no familiarity with the outfit, had no expectations for what I was going to hear. Without any exaggeration, the unadulterated, pure doom heaviness in 3 those tracks rivaled some of the biggest names in the genre and immediately made Pallbearer a band that I wanted to hear more from. After almost two years of anticipation, the band has found a home with the impeccable Profound Lore label and has just released their official debut SORROW AND EXTINCTION. Well worth the wait, it’s an exceptional opus that just may be my favorite doom record of the year.
There are a few key elements that make SORROW AND EXTINCTION such a phenomenal listen. First and foremost, it’s a traditional doom metal album. There’s been a proliferation of sloppy sludge metal bands in recent years, and a lot of it’s just plain garbage. Pallbearer indeed follow the path of slow and low, but the band focuses on integrating actual melody and structure into the tunes rather than hiding behind a wall of fuzz. Yeah I know, it seems like a ridiculous non-event, but the discernible clarity and punctuation in each track allows it to resonate more viscerally. Conceptually, the five tracks each follow similar fantasy themes of death and the beyond, in line with an album cover that looks like something you’d see airbrushed on the side of an Econoline van circa ’75.
But it’s the total package that really sells SORROW AND EXTINCTION. With five songs clocking in at around 49 minutes, it may seem like a lot to digest, but the reality is that the whole thing flows superbly. Each song is presented as its own bleak landscape that slowly develops as the construct of the tune builds. Take for example the opening “Foreigner,” which slowly ascends for a full 2 minutes against a woeful acoustic guitar before the song actually kicks into gear, but when it does, it’s like Mount St. Helens erupting. The stark emptiness of the lone strumming guitar deceptively indicates a more positive outcome, but as the accompanying instruments enter the arrangement there’s an immediate air of sorrow. Queue vocalist Brett Campbell and his clear and precisely pained voice. Against a different musical backdrop he might sound a bit thin and pale, but here it proves to be the only light in an otherwise dark and mournful setting.
“Devoid of Redemption” and “An Offering to Grief” are more traditional, riff centric tunes that trade desperation for aggression and broaden the album’s appeal. But the closing “Given to the Grave” is quite simply one of the most amazing tracks I’ve heard in a long time. Predominantly instrumental, Pallbearer marries a chorus of voices against dense guitars, minimalist harmonies, and some emotive fretwork for a massively heavy, yet beautiful closing statement. Mortality never sounded so inviting.
SORROW AND EXTINCTION is simply flawless. Pallbearer has delivered a debut that’s better than I could have ever imagined. It’s an exceptional record that deserves a spot on the shelf of every doom fan reading this. SORROW AND EXTINCTION is available now through Profound Lore Records.