Great heavy metal is timeless, regardless of its cumbersome web of sub-genres. It has consistently dragged more poor souls, young or old, into its cesspit of bad influence and antipathy for the best part of forty years now. And worthy new recruits will always put far too much time and effort into learning all the details of heavy metal’s illustrious history.
Doom is often looked upon as a conduit for the preservation of these earliest metal doctrines, although with the divergent sounds that have sprung up since the 90s, those bands still plying the essence of the founding fathers have come to be referred to as ‘traditional’ doom. It’s an honourable trade and one that newcomers Pallbearer of Little Rock, Arkansas, have taken to with a remarkable self-confidence.
Their 2010 debut demo is a master class in melancholic doom drudgery. What is really interesting here is the immense, suffocating gloom that Pallbearer wields in the light of their very melodic sound. Dual guitars weave rich harmonies that simply seem to suck the will to live. In the best possible way of course. It’s an approach that I’ve come to adore through the works of a legendary band much closer to home, Warning, whose album Watching From A Distance is without doubt one of the most devastating records ever. For Pallbearer’s first effort to hit so close to the mark is a stunning achievement and with a full-length due for release some time next year through Shadow Kingdom Records, they are certainly one to watch in future.
With three tracks of only the most depressive old school doom metal, Demo 2010 is an exhaustive foray into what sounds like the longest, greyest Sunday afternoon you’ve ever experienced (much like today). Opener ‘The Legend’ starts off with a dreary fuzzed-out bassline, gradually augmented by a tapestry of beautifully composed guitar melodies that builds into a titanic wall of crushing power chords. The vocals are absolutely killer. Referencing a tried-and-tested style that reminds of everyone from Ozzy and Paul Chain through to more modern luminaries like those of the aforementioned Warning, vocalist/guitarist Brett Campbell’s delivery is flawless, moving and a focal point of the whole demo.
‘Devoid of Redemption’ features brutal, down-tuned riffwork with a heavy-as-fuck guitar tone. As the song progresses, the riffs just get nastier and form a back drop for some great guitar solos and impressive vocal acrobatics. Pallbearer’s original songs are really something special for the traditional doom landscape, but the closing track, a cover of ‘Gloomy Sunday’ by Rezső Seress, has been begging for a doom metal refurbishment for decades.
The reinterpretation from the smooth jazz of Billy Holiday’s version into a swarthy metal dirge shines a light on Pallbearer’s knack for brilliant arrangements. The mythology behind the song makes it a perfect doom track too: Widely known as the Hungarian Suicide Song in its day, composer Seress committed suicide himself and urban legends suggest the piece drove many listeners to a similar fate. Billy Holiday’s version was reportedly banned by our own BBC for its grim subject matter.
All in all, Pallbearer are a great new band that doom fans will relish. They’re pretty helpful too; a link for a band-authorised free download of the demo is available below and if you dig it, there’s also a CD-R for purchase from Pallbearer’s bigcartel page. LURKER friends Quebec-based Media Tree Recordings will also be releasing the demo on vinyl as a collaborative effort with Scotland’s At War With False Noise for some time next year. So keep an eye on those links.