As winter fast approaches, there is no better time for a new Pallbearer record.
With some considering their third album, 2017’s Heartless, a misstep, in truth it was just another dimension of sound the Little Rock, Arkansas doom-metal behemoth added to their already impressive sonic armoury.
Pallbearer haven’t gone off script yet and on their fourth album, Forgotten Days, things don’t change.
Pallbearer have always been one of those bands that seemed accustomed to playing heavy-handed dirges in churches. While their previous works may have frightened off the practices of faith, on Forgotten Days they may have just found such audiences. If those churchgoers believed in the occult, of course…
Randall Dunn adds the futuristic embellishments which appear subtlety throughout the mix. Dunn himself, is experiencing his most prolific year as a producer and engineer, also being involved in 2020 releases from Uniform, Steve Von Till and Algiers. On Forgotten Days, his involvement is paramount.
It all starts off with the hymnal ‘Sabbath-inspired eponymous track, which rumbles across frozen landscapes like a unhinged freight train. “Dark clouds move closer/At the edges of my mind/Obscuring, consuming/My perception of time,” sings Brett Campbell.
Lyrically, the shadowy backdrops don’t stop here.
“Distant silhouettes/Nearly all of them obscured/Exposed to be/The damages,” sings Campbell during the chorus of the brilliant Riverbed, which alongside Rite of Passage combine as a brutal march through roaring fires with Devin Holt‘s riffs towering above the flames.
With Stasis, Pallbearer reach for the traditional templates of metal, adding multi-layered facets of drone and sci-fi-inspired effects. It’s a short number that gives us time to breathe before Silver Wings – the closest thing Pallbearer have written to a bruising heart-felt lament since Sorrow and Extinction‘s Given to the Grave. With slow-motion drones unfolding and echoing towards the black skies, these thick blankets of sound are backed by pile-driving rhythms. The song a definite highlight from an album that contains many.
Vengeance and Ruination draws from grotesque medieval imagery and the sound Pallbearer produces aligns with these themes, struggling through the marshlands in search of some otherworldly god.
While it doesn’t possess the incessant bone-crushing rhythms of their previous works, that’s not to say that Forgotten Days doesn’t hit the mark.
Listening on headphones is essential. The scaling down in low-end drones in favour of subtle melodies makes you feel closer to the music and the more you listen to these songs, the more they take shape and grip.
There is no better example of this than Caledonia.
“I could hardly muster a goodbye/Pleading for numbness to arrive,” sings Campbell, as he abruptly rallies Pallbearer into the world of doom-laden hymnal metal. Filled with Holt‘s heaven-reaching riff-a-rolla, it’s yet another epic closer which Pallbearer have become perennial deliverers of.
In the past, Pallbearer have fleetingly shown us their tender side and on Forgotten Days they produce it in spades. Alongside the master behind the soundboards in Dunn, they have given us an open-hearted journey whilst maintaining their doom aesthetic.
This makes Forgotten Days a vital addition to the Pallbearer arsenal, establishing their organic growth as both band and individual artists. While metal is often (and sometimes rightly) criticised for its primitive tendencies, Pallbearer remain immune from these objections and with Forgotten Days, they solidify their position as the true apostles of doom in 2020.
Forgotten Days is out now via Nuclear Blast.