Pallbearer – “I Saw The End” Track Review
Pallbearer must be doing something right, because it’s rare that a doom band earns plaudits from Pitchfork and the pop playlisters without garnering resentment in the metal community. Like Deafheaven, Baroness and Mastodon before them, Pallbearer are one of the select few heavy acts that has absolutely everyone licking their lips in anticipation.
The Arkansas band’s third studio LP, Heartless, will be with us shortly, but until then the world will have to feast on lead single “Thorns” (a despairing throb of song, filled with plaintive drones and thoughtful guitar work) and its thrilling follow up “I Saw The End”. If the former release embraced the churn while staring despondently at the scenery, then its successor strives to soar.
The guitar work is flushed of all introspection; instead each chord seeks to stride upwards with jaunty, but no less meaty, aplomb. The percussion is sublime but never flashy. Mark Lierly’s drumwork follows the guitar’s tone in lockstep, imperceptibly increasing and decreasing the intensity of his attack with a smoothness rarely seen in modern metal. With Pallbearer’s engine room supplying a solid and seamless foundation, the lead guitar is free to express and interpret, breaking free of the early grind to wind and waltz with a playful medieval pomposity. This is clean, crisp and overtly accessible stuff.
If there’s a failing to be found, it’s in Brett Campbell’s strained vocals. All the drive and delicacy his bandmates show with their instruments is lacking in his pitch. He’s not bad by any means, but there’s a boldness and fluidity to music that feels underserved by a leaden lyric sheet: “the joys of life are mountains of the dead/blacken the sky, can’t stand to see the sun/the trick of life reveals the hatred that is one”.
This remains a minor complaint, as few will quibble with the words when their heads are caught toing and froing to soulful ripples of Pallbearer’s playing. Equally, and to his credit, it’s in these moments that Campbell’s vocal shines, when his voice feels as lost and helpless as we are in the pull of the band’s beautiful breaking waves. From the middle of the maelstrom all may appear lost, but just as darkness threatens to ascend, a rip roaring solo pulls us all towards the light – a fitting crescendo to strong single.