Tag Archives: Pallbearer

Artist Reflections: Pallbearer on Pushing Creative Limits in 2017

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How the metal band coped with isolation when the world was falling apart.

Despite the fact that it often seemed like, on a global scale, we were living in a fever dream, 2017 was a very good year for Pallbearer. We released our new album, Heartless, in March, and, as of a few weeks prior to this writing, we barely devoted time to anything else besides touring behind it. We did three tours of the U.S. and Canada, two European tours, and a tour of Australia.

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The Best Metal Albums of 2017

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This year was a waking nightmare, for reasons too numerous and too upsetting to mention here. Not coincidentally, metal sounded really good this year. Metal has always been a genre for a world gone mad, even when its practitioners don’t deliberately address the social issues of the day. The best metal albums of this year certainly weren’t written with our current political hellscape in mind, but they’ve nonetheless been necessary when the world has become overwhelming. The list below contains pure escapism, righteous anger, violent fantasies, utter despair, cautious hope. These albums served as the perfect soundtrack for a year of unhinged chaos—and, sometimes, they even managed to make us feel a little bit better.

[This list is ranked, counting down from #10 – #1 —ed.]

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The Best Albums of 2017: #20 – 1

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The wait is over. These are the 20 Best Albums of the year.

Last year, the Bandcamp Daily staff put together our first “Best Albums of the Year List,” 100 albums we felt defined 2016 for us. At the time I remember thinking, “This is tough, but it will probably get easier as the years go on.” Now, one year later, I’m realizing that I was wrong. The truth is, the world of Bandcamp is enormous, and it contains artists from all over the world, in every conceivable genre (including a few who exist in genres of their own invention), and at every stage of their career. The fact of the matter is, any list like this is going to fall short because, on Bandcamp, there is always more to discover. Right now, there’s probably someone in their bedroom in Buenos Aires, making a record on their computer that is going to end up on next year’s list. So as comprehensive as we’ve tried to make this list, we realize that, even at 100 albums, we’re only scratching the surface of what’s available. The albums that made this list, though, were the ones that stayed with us long after they were released—the ones we returned to again and again and found their pleasures undimmed, and their songs still rewarding. These are Bandcamp’s Best Albums of 2017.

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Album of the Day: Pallbearer, “Heartless”

A sense of foreboding gravity is an essential part of doom, and on their first two albums, 2012’s Sorrow and Extinction and 2014’s Foundations of Burden, Pallbearer mostly embraced that attitude—tellingly, the latter was produced by Billy Anderson, a collaborator of Sleep and Neurosis. But the records also took enough liberties with that grim metal subgenre that the band seemed a prime candidate for crossover.

Those departures have grown only stronger on Heartless, the third full-length from the Little Rock, Arkansas, quartet. Throughout, Pallbearer moves even further away from easy definitions and constraining pigeonholes. Some may call it compromise; others may call it growing up.

The most intriguing thing about the self-produced Heartless is the constant tension churning within both the words and the music. Their lyrics, while still mostly bleak, now leave a little room for cautious hope (“A Plea for Understanding” even features the word “love”). And while still capable of of producing a crushing swing, the band isn’t afraid to unleash a confident, unabashed melodic sensibility; at times, Pallbearer sounds like classic Thin Lizzy, or even Boston (bassist Joseph Rowland wasn’t shy about his enjoyment of the latter in a recent interview). You can hear it in Brett Campbell’s agile singing, easing up into a high register free of the self-conscious “woe is me” despair of so many doom vocalists. You can hear it in guitarist Devin Holt’s mastery of both massive riffage and lovely, proggy lines that flirt with power metal. Heartless sounds like a band finally free to be itself. Let others worry about what to call it.

Elisabeth Vincentelli

Doom Metal: A Brief Timeline

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Sleep “Dopesmoker”

The core sound of doom metal is instantly recognizable—and has been for more than 45 years. No one’s going to confuse doom with death, thrash, or black metal. And even though modern practitioners of the form have modified the structure, blended it with other subgenres, and sped up or slowed down the tempos, doom will always have its place in the lexicon of metal.

The structure of the music is rooted in the same scales as the blues, and doom’s emotional impact parallels the drained, downcast spirit of artists like Robert Johnson and Son House. But the sound is amped up and magnified so the tone isn’t just sad, it’s mean and disconsolate too. From the moment Black Sabbath broke through with their self-titled debut in 1970—essentially defining metal in the process—they laid the foundation for doom.

Doom affects the gut and the psyche, conveying sensations of darkness and foreboding with fuzzed out guitars, mid-paced tempos and generally morose vocals. Groove is paramount, as is a certain amount of repetition, generally achieved with crunching, palm-muted guitar chords complimentary, minor key melodies and rhythms that wax and wane, only to rise again. Sometimes there are organs, samples, and variations in musical complexity. These sonic shifts are what have helped sustain the genre from one generation to the next. But even without the musical modifications, doom is forever because dread and grief are universal—and musicians will always be drawn to express universal feelings of anger, hopelessness, fear, and sadness.

Once bands in the ‘70s heard Black Sabbath and Paranoid (which came out later that same year),  they were indelibly impacted; some started tuning down their guitars, plugging into overdriven distortion pedals and writing the loudest and ugliest dirges they could conceive of. Between the substances they were consuming, the wave of occult literature they were drawn to by Anton Szandor LaVey, Aleister Crowley, and Austin Osman Spare, and popular films like Rosemary’s Baby and The Exorcist, a sinister, depression-fueled spirit spread through the counterculture and stoked the growing flames of metal. And once doom had a foothold in the music form it would never be the same.

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