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Little Rock, Arkansas’ Pallbearer are a doom metal quartet whose penchant for extreme, monstrously thick heaviness has drawn fans from across the globe. With a sound rooted in the slow, riff-centric traditions pioneered by Black Sabbath, the band’s approach is appended by a neo-psychedelic application of guitar harmony and later on, prog elements. It was initially showcased on a three-song demo that included a cover of the Billie Holiday standard “Gloomy Sunday.” They hardwired that guitar interplay into their core sound on their 2012 debut album Sorrow and Extinction. Live and on recordings, Pallbearer graft layers of impenetrably sludgy guitars onto an impossibly thick wall of oppressive, throbbing, bass-and-drum-kit bleakness that envelops the listener. 2014′s charting Foundations of Burden added a more glacial feel but retained the band’s textures and dynamics thanks in part to producer Billy Anderson’s mix. Their third full-length, 2017′s Heartless, marked their international breakthrough as it reached the top spot on several charts. The single “Atlantis” appeared in 2019.
Pallbearer’s original lineup came together out of the local metal scene in 2008, with Brett Campbell (guitars/vocals), Devin Holt (guitars), and Joseph D. Rowland (bass); their drum chair remained in flux until 2012 when Mark Lierly joined the band. After woodshedding for two years, developing a sound as bleak and oppressive as it was melodically expansive, Pallbearer issued a widely acclaimed self-titled demo in 2010 using drummer Zach Stine. In addition to the near iconic, ear-shattering cover of “Gloomy Sunday,” the set included the originals “The Legend” and “Devoid of Redemption.” These two songs in particular — along with the band’s burgeoning live reputation, drew the interest of record label Profound Lore. They signed Pallbearer and released their 2012 debut album Sorrow and Extinction. They also contributed two tracks to a split-label showcase with YOB, Atlas Moth, Loss, and Wolvhammer. Stine left the band in 2011 and was replaced with Chuck Schaff as Pallbearer undertook a world tour.
Before re-entering the studio, the band replaced Schaaf with Lierly in the drum chair. He made his recording debut with the group on 2014′s Foundations of Burden. Produced and mixed by Billy Anderson (Neurosis, Swans, Sleep), the record was greeted with enthusiasm from both the metal and mainstream rock press. Commercially, it registered well inside the front half of the Top 200, but also placed on half-a-dozen other charts.
The band toured internationally for the next year-and-a-half, playing headline and support shows in clubs, theaters, and at large festivals. The three-track Fear & Fury EP followed in 2016. With a more hook-laden — but no less heavy — sound, it revealed the band’s musical progression. They spent the remainder of the summer recording their third full-length studio date. Self-produced and recorded to analog tape at Fellowship Hall Sound in Little Rock, it was mixed by Joe Barresi (Queens of the Stone Age, Tool, Melvins, Soundgarden). Prefaced by the release of singles “Thorns” and “I Saw the End,” Pallbearer released the full-length Heartless through Profound Lore in March of 2017. It was initially greeted with a little consternation by some early fans (read “purists”) who didn’t enjoy its more polished and textured production and proggish melodic and instrumental interludes. Pallbearer expected this and took it in stride as they went out on tour. What they didn’t expect, however, was to be embraced by rock and indie audiences. The album got international airplay, topped the Heatseekers chart, and placed inside the Top Ten at Hard Rock albums and in the Top Three at streaming. The band’s nearly two-year-long tour saw them headlining most of the festivals they played, and netting record sales.
While on the road, they issued a pair of singles in 2018. April saw the digital only release of “Dropout,” a brand-new song, cut for the Adult Swim Singles Program. In September, Pallbearer released their cover of Pink Floyd’s “Run Like Hell” to streaming. The band spent the front half of 2019 on the road playing in Europe, South America, and the United States. They issued a two- sided digital single in June: “Atlantis” b/w a live version of “Thorns.” They spent the remainder of 2019 and early 2020 in intermittent recording sessions at West Texas studio Sonic Ranch with Randall Dunn (Sunn O))), Earth, Johan Johannson). In July they announced the imminent release of fourth album, Forgotten Days with a Ben Meredith-directed video for its title track. The full-length was released in October. ~ Gregory Heaney & Thom Jurek