Pallbearer unfurl modern doom classic with killer debut ‘Sorrow and Extinction’

Everyone at some point goes through something soul crushing and devastating, an event that changes your life and leaves you reeling. You see the world differently, you don’t feel the way you once did, and you wonder how you’re going to take steps into the future without feeling this horrible anchor tied around your neck. It’s enough to make you want to retreat into a dark room, stay there for weeks, and slowly let everything built up inside of you flood over in a tidal wave of anguish and rage that no one else has to experience but you.

When those times arrive, it’s comforting to have something in which you can immerse yourself that lets you achieve some sort of catharsis. Some people like to forget their woes, listen to happy, bubbly music and pretend that everything’s OK. But that’s a lie. Once you’re alone, once those bright lights die down, your ghosts return to you. I’ve always tried to get in touch with as much of the torture I’m experiencing so that I can heal in time, and, because of that, the debut album from Pallbearer arrived just in time. “Sorrow and Extinction” isn’t just a perfect avenue for making amends with your sadness. It also happens to be a modern day doom classic, and I am saying that the very day it is being released to the world. So if it all sounds like hyperbole, go get this thing and let it crush you into a million pieces that’ll need put back together again.

Little Rock, Ark., quartet Pallbearer started to turn heads with their perfect blend of modern and traditional doom on their three-track demo, released last year. That effort demonstrated the promise the band held, and, not so surprisingly, they were snapped up by Profound Lore, your one-stop shop for quality, artistically ambitious, forward-thinking metal. I had been waiting for their debut record to drop for about a year now, and upon just a single listen I knew I had something special in my car stereo. Here I was just driving to get beer (a longer drive than you might think), and the record totally captured me and left my jaw dropped. I probably looked like an idiot when stopped at traffic lights. But it was astounding how moving and impactful the album was just on that very first visit. Subsequent visits, and there have been many of them, helped me connect with Pallbearer’s music more and more.

One of the most noteworthy things about Pallbearer’s sound is Brett Campbell’s voice. He sings with such a passion and fire that you have no choice but to get swept away by his storytelling, his pain, and his expression. He only rises to a yell momentarily on “An Offering of Grief,” and that’s only because it matches the way that the tempo and caterwaul of the song is building. On the rest of the album, Campbell sings cleanly and powerfully, and he’s quickly becoming one of my favorite singers in all of doom. I like his work that much. The rest of the band – guitarist Devin Holt, bassist Joseph D. Rowland and drummer Zach Stine (he’s since been replaced by Chuck Schaaf, who also engineered and helped master the album) — travels the annals of time for their inspiration, nodding their heads adoringly toward the altar of Black Sabbath but even blending in some sludge and drone into their work.

“Foreigner” opens the record on a heart-wrenching, sorrowful note, as Campbell sings of mustering strength, not giving in to outside forces, but eventually realizing one’s will can be eroded and beaten. “Lost within a shade, I call out for a helping hand,” he emotes as his final words on the track, leaving you wondering where this leaves him standing – if’s he’s still standing at all. “Devoid of Redemption” and “Legend” are new versions of cuts found on their demo, and they benefit from the fresh revisions. “Divine” is one of the heaviest, meatiest entries on the record, while “Legend” has tenets of classic heavy metal, like something that the Ronnie James Dio version of Sabbath could have conjured. Aforementioned “An Offering of Grief” also feels Sabbath-esque, as Campbell and Holt let their guitars go off kilter and spacey at times, adding a sense of adventure to the song. Closer “Given to the Grave” is short on words and long on psychedelic, challenging and colorful passages, pointing back to late ’70s and early ’80s doom, prog and power metal. When Campbell reveals, “No more sorrow can weigh me down,” that’s your sign to wind down and take an inventory of what you’ve discovered about your own grief.

“Sorrow and Extinction” is a stunning, earth-shifting album that’ll be remembered as one of the most important debut offerings of 2012. I’ll go as far as to say it’s the most affecting Profound Lore release since Agalloch’s masterpiece “Marrow of the Spirit.” This is an album you cannot afford to pass by, especially if you’re huge doom fan. But all you have to do is be a human being willing to address all emotions, both good and bad, with raw honesty. “Sorrow and Extinction” is a very human document that’ll take you into dark corners but will bring you back out of them more enlightened.

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