Three years since their last studio album, PALLBEARER have returned with their third offering, Heartless. Thorns and I Saw the End have already been released by the band, preparing fans for what to come. Vocalist Brett Campbell said in our interview with him that the record may be surprising to fans of PALLBEARER, so we gave it a spin and gave our thoughts on their upcoming offering.
The album cracks open with I Saw the End, an immediately emotion-driven track, which can be felt in the heavy riffs and licks that surround them from Brett Campbell and Devin Holt. The lyrics “Blackened sky, can’t stand to see the sun. The truth of light reveals the hatred that has won” chills the spine with Brett’s haunting yet soothing vocals, showing that Heartless features some interesting messages in their lyrics. A change in pace gives the track more of a triumphant feel before changing to Thorns, which is again a sign of the band’s development since their 2014 record, Foundations of Burden. While the track is explicitly full of a PALLBEARER sound, it feels fuller, more refined, and simply the next step in the band’s sound.
A break featuring some beautiful guitar work splits the track in two, Lie of Survival, arguably the strongest track of the record, kicks in. This song seems to encapsulate everything that PALLBEARER have introduced into their sound, and truly makes it shine. The title track, while opening to a pretty acoustic line, doesn’t hit quite as hard as the other tracks of the album. It’s a good track, but doesn’t have the same impact or connection as the rest. One thing that is a strong positive about this track (and the rest of the album, in fact), is that bassist Joseph Rowland’s presence is more apparent and really pushes through.
In Heartless, while keeping true to the same kind of sound, PALLBEARER return in the next stage of their development. For example, Cruel Road still has the signature gargantuan doom riffs, but they’re more in the background of the track. Instead, a beautiful guitar solo takes charge over the rest of the instruments, with drums from Mark Lierly following suit before returning back to pure, lead-heavy riffs. This track is also significantly more fast-paced for PALLBEARER, and works well to give some diversity to the pace of the album. While doom is generally somewhat slow, and that IS part of its appeal, it’s refreshing to have a change of pace in Heartless. That said, it doesn’t seem to fit as well as the other tracks in the album, perhaps by being a little too different to the general tone of the album. This is a very minor niggle however, to an incredible record overall, and is more likely a matter of personal perspective as you go through Heartless as opposed to a fault anywhere else.
The album closes with A Plea For Understanding, which is a soft and more elegant ending to a crushing album. Brett‘s soothing vocals shine in this track, and accompanied by more subtle guitar work (the riffs are still there, but an afterthought), it makes for a beautiful ending to Heartless. With a more a more rock-like nature, the track displays PALLBEARER‘s willingness to experiment, and pushes the boundaries of the genre in which they reside.
Heartless is a clear marker of the development of one of the biggest names in doom today. With this record, PALLBEARER have created an album that keeps true to their original sound, but this familiarity helps to identify what they’ve done differently. More focus on atmospheric elements and emotional pulls make this an excellent listen, and it’s apparent that they’re challenging themselves to push the boundaries of what PALLBEARER do, and making themselves arguably one of the most interesting bands on the rise at the moment. PALLBEARER have tweaked their already strong mix of doom and bleak-lined optimism, and Heartless perpetuates this with the addition of extra influences to sweeten the palate. This is arguably their strongest record yet, and if they continue on this trajectory, PALLBEARER could well be more of a force to be reckoned with than they already are.
Heartless is set for release on March 24th via via Profound Lore Records (North America) and Nuclear Blast Records (Everywhere else in the world). Pre-orders are available here & here. PALLBEARER tour Europe and the UK in April, for tour dates check it out here.
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