Album Review: Pallbearer – Heartless

By Ryan Falla

Pallbearer, the epic doom-metal group from Arkansas, finally drop their much anticipated third record ‘Heartless’ after the stunning 2014 release ‘Foundations of Burden’. Pallbearer takes a softer metal approach with this record, giving the innately crushing genre of doom metal a far more melodic vibe than the standard “Satan slowly crawling down your throat” approach.

Even though it’s slow and doomy, it still has melody punching through the forefront, so you end up with a fusion of melodic rock and doom metal. It’s a very interesting approach because those are two genres that play off of complete opposite formulas. One carries bright emotion through guitar and vocal work that pierces the sky while the other is dark and pulls you into a pit of thick sludge that slowly drags you to the pit. Pallbearer happens to find a strong middle ground between the two genres; they build slow, warm melodies carried by the guitar and vocal work of Brett Campbell.

‘Heartless’ is a strong body work, that as a whole presents itself as a different flavor of melodic/doom metal with a focus on slower guitar driven melodies. It’s a good formula, but it leaves little room for distinction. ‘Heartless’ is a guitar-centric album, a lot of what they do is based off of what can drive the melodies to higher grounds. This is a fine formula, but the rhythms leave too little of an impression to create a strong distinction between tracks. ‘Thorns’ opens with an eye popping riff that drops back to give the guitar and vocal melodies the front stage; this takes too much punch out of a record that is already focused on bright, melodic guitar work.

The melodic work is fantastic, but it’s a not a flavor that can stand complete on its own without extra punch. When the guitars drop into doom-land it’s usually for the purpose of heightening the somber, emotional melodies of the guitar. ‘Heartless’ is driven by the guitar and vocal melodies, and that’s a bit of a backwards approach; the rhythms mostly give show to what’s happening at the front instead of building a rock solid foundation for the rest of the music to build off of.

‘Heartless’ is a solid body of work, but I can’t shake the feeling that the vocal/guitar melody centered approach leaves the album feeling a bit hollow. The music is competently written and the talent of the musicians is fantastic, yet the heavy focus on melody takes too much attention away from the core of the music.

Pallbearers third release ‘Heartless’ is an overall strong release that leaves some desire to be had with a record that flows with a simple and enjoyable atmosphere;  though the lack of any lasting punch may leave one without any serious impressions to carry away from the record.

Rating: 7.5/10

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Record Label: Profound Lore (North America) / Nuclear Blast (Europe)
Release Date: March 24th 2017

Track Listing:
1. I Saw the End (6:22)
2. Thorns (5:25)
3. Lie of Survival (8:26)
4. Dancing in Madness (11:48)
5. Cruel Road (7:14)
6. Heartless (8:10)
7. A Plea for Understanding (12:40)

Total Duration: 60:05

Pallbearer links: website | facebook | twitter | instagram