If you read Shane Mehling’s review in our March issue, you’ll know that we—along with most of the interwebs—hold Pallbearer’s recent debut in rather high regard. While it’s way too early to say whether Sorrow and Extinction will go on to be talked about in the same breath as a Calculating Infinity or Remission, the record did get us thinking about similarly impressive introductions. Rather than bore you with a homegrown list (though you could always start by perusing our HOF inductees), we asked PB bassist Joseph D. Rowland to tell us about musical first courses that have impacted him in the same way that The Dillinger Escape Plan and Mastodon’s have affected so many others. As usual, we’ve compiled his wide-ranging selections into a Spotify playlist.
A great, truly epic debut from the masters of the genre of “epic doom”. I know that term gets thrown around often, but in this case, it is the necessary descriptor. I think Rich Walker is one of the best out there at writing evocative metal that fits perfectly with the lyrical context of the songs. There are tons of riffs on this record that just get stuck in my head for days. Most people who love Solstice seem to prefer their sophomore album New Dark Age, but I think this record is more varied and consistent.
Robin Trower—Twice Removed from Yesterday (1973)
Atmosphere is everything on most records, and this album has it completely locked down. To me, it literally sounds like there was a heavy fog hanging in the air during the recording! The playing is loose and just full of feeling, and has a heaviness to it that can’t be easily replicated. Even though I’m a primarily a bassist, I’m a huge sucker for guitarists who play tastefully and emotionally—that is just all over this record. Bassist James Dewar’s vocals are just perfect for the sound as well. I find myself spinning this one often.
Saint Vitus—Saint Vitus (1984)
This is just a classic, period. Scott Reagers will always be my preference for Vitus vocals, and he sounds like a madman on this. I also love how essentially frantic the record is at its start, and it slowly winds down as time goes on. I hope they recorded in this order—it makes me think that the downers were kicking in the whole time and by the end they were just gone.
Just a beautiful debut, it strikes such an excellent balance between the lush melodies—and great harmonies between guitars—and crushing and ugly heaviness. The production is a bit thin for my taste, but it fits the time, and is totally trumped by how well the songs play out. There is an air to this record that fits what I think Anathema wanted, a sort of throwback to the Romantic period of art and music that wasn’t present on its later material.
Mahavishnu Orchestra—The Inner Mounting Flame (1971)
I like records that exude a sort of mysticism in their sound, and this is one of the greatest, alongside the group’s next record, Birds of Fire. This band knew exactly what it wanted to accomplish, and came right out of the gate with something totally unlike anything else: a complete concept for its sound and one of the most skillfully played albums in existence. This is another record that feels heavy to me, not so much in a traditional sense, but because of the tremendous layering and interplay between all the instruments. Billy Cobham’s drumming is one of my favorite aspects, incredibly technical but never so much that it’s overboard. I suppose the same could be said of the record itself.
This record has been talked about to death, but how could it not be? It’s the ultimate musical manifestation of a rotten industrial landscape and an awful machine-like society that Justin Broadrick ruefully vocalizes. Whenever Pallbearer is on the road, this record ends up as the soundtrack to traveling through industrial wastelands and it seems more and more fitting each time.
Jean Michel Jarre—Oxygene (1976)***
Not really a dark record per se, but one that totally depicts a cosmic journey. I like to spin this one with the lights down. There is so much imagery that comes forth from the wholly analog synth and drum machine spacescapes…it’s focused and full of sonic movement as well, which makes it a totally unique record, well ahead of its time.
Steve Hackett—Voyage of the Acolyte (1975)
This record blew me away when I first heard it. One interesting aspect is that this was apparently originally intended to be a Genesis record. It has a similar feel, but is so much darker and weirder than Genesis, even at its weirdest moments with Peter Gabriel. I’ve listened to it many, many times and I still feel that there are intricacies that I discover upon each listen. That surely is the mark of a great record. This one isn’t for everyone, but there is much groundbreaking material here, even a little bit of martial industrial, years ahead of its time. The album ends with the stunning closer “Shadow of the Hierophant”—one of my all time favorite songs.
*Pallbearer’s debut LP, Sorrow and Extinction, is available here.*
**Photo: Diana Lee Zadlo**
***For any JMJ buffs reading this (hey, you never know): while this technically may not be not his first release, some consider it to be his first “real” album, which is good enough for us.***
****Previous Decibrity playlists: