Pallbearer deliver powerful emotional glimpse into family, loss on moving ‘Forgotten Days’

Doom metal always has had its hands in things other than pure evil, as it’s often delved into other areas such as depression, sadness, decay, and the fragile human state that feels like it can fall apart at any second. This is a year where these themes hit particularly hard, and music that can find that centerpoint can be a profound way of connecting and growing.

Arkansas doom beasts Pallbearer not only have scratched many of these surfaces but also have traveled deep within them to craft records that have carved out a much-deserved stellar reputation for the band and have helped create three landmark album giants for the sub-genre over the past decade or so. And now comes “Forgotten Days,” another record pushed back to later in the year due to the blessed virus, but this stuff almost hits even heavier now than it may have when weather and moods were getting to their apex. The band—vocalist/guitarist Brett Campbell, guitarist Devin Holt, bassist/vocalist Joseph D. Rowland, drummer Mark Lierly—focuses on family and what those ties mean. It’s not a love letter home. Instead it’s a further exploration into loss and pain as Rowland returns to themes of losing his mother a decade ago which helped paint debut “Sorrow and Extinction” while Campbell’s selections deal with passage of time and memory, as his mother is now dealing with her own mother Alzheimer’s disease, a level on which I can relate right now. It’s an incredible, sobering journey both thematically and musically, one that hits a little heavier to the heart and soul than many other doom records right now. 

The title track gets us started as noise bleeds in before the riffs open in earnest. The vibe is ominous and dark as over the chorus Campbell wonders, “Is this insanity? Will they come to take me? Who can I trust with tomorrow? I can barely trust myself.” Warm soloing rushes in, filling your senses, while Campbell notes, “Times have changed and so have I,” before things take off again, and pained echoes add the final nail. “Riverbed” has rich riffs and a chorus that can make your heart grow cold. Spirited crunch dusts up the moodiness as guitars lather you, and some power adds more taste. The singing is heartfelt as usual while a final simmer lets the heat collect and cause sweating. “Stasis” has livelier guitars and a driving force, while Campbell laments unwanted change in one’s life. “This place, so hollow, seems like a prison cell to me,” he drives on the great chorus while synth wells up and adds new textures, while the track ends in echo bath. “Silver Wings” is the longest track on the record, a 12:18-long epic that reminds of the band’s earlier days. The track takes some time to set up the atmosphere, and once it does, solemn vocals are dripping while the emotional pull runs into colder storming. Later, synth zaps while the leads heat up, while the guitars combine and create a force one cannot stand down.  

“The Quicksand of Existing” chugs while delivering smoking doom, following the longest track with the shortest, clocking in at an uncharacteristic 3:59. They make the most of it as the verses are gruffer, the guitar work even heavier, and the pall of doom brings certain darkness. “Vengeance & Ruination” mashes from the start, going to squash guts as Campbell jabs, “Carve away dignity, piece by piece for all of us to see.” The track hulks as the band adds layers of emotion to what’s already a vulnerable scene, and then the tempo punches up as heaviness and warmth combine to bring a chunky finish. “Rite of Passage” begins clean before the guitars push the issue, and spiritual ache is dealt generously. “One question to ask of you, did part of me die while watching you go?” Campbell delivers as pain collects, while the soloing rises, and the track burns off into a reflective pool. “Caledonia” is the closer, and it starts delicately before that trademark Pallbearer crunch drops. There’s a deathrock vibe that carries with it damp winds while keys zap into a hazy ambiance as Campbell calls, “I wasn’t aware that fate would plunge the knife, I watched the color fade out from joys of life.” The soloing has a psychedelic edge to them as a bluesy fog arrives, the chorus bites back again, and the track fades into the cold.

This is likely to be the record that gets the band the most attention simply because they’re firmly ensconced on Nuclear Blast now, but Pallbearer deliver a hearty, emotional reckoning on “Forgotten Days.” There’s a noticeable effort to trim the fat from their songs, for the most part, and it does give the record more urgency and never sacrifices the depth. More ears are bound to absorb Pallbearer’s music this time around, and they’ll be rewarded with a great record that continues to show why they’re so special and highly regarded.     

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