The power of the urn
dB rating: 9/10

Release Date: March 24, 2017
Label: Profound Lore

Heartless’ cover features a literal mountain of a man despondently hugging his knees. It asks the question: Did a colossus calcify and become a mountain? Or did a mountain erode over time, taking the shape of suffering it witnessed?

The concept of elemental change is crucial to Pallbearer’s third LP, as it signals a dramatic season change from the Arkansas dirgists.

If you read Dan Lake’s Pallbearer cover story in dB #148, you know vocalist/guitarist/eulogist Brett Campbell confirmed they consider themselves a prog outfit above a doom band. While there are traces of that secret identity throughout Pallbearer’s offerings, it was at most peripheral with their Candlemass crunch frontstage. But “I Saw the End” immediately introduces you to Pallbearer on the prog side of the moon. Less Yes and King Crimson, more the psychedelic proto-doom of T2 with polished edges.

While Heartless is their first conspicuous stomp into prog’s labyrinth, it also features Pallbearer at their angriest. Melancholia endures as the predominant affection—watercolored by strings, synths and clean harmonies—but the album’s second act erupts with sludgy groove and cosmic fuzz. “Dancing in Madness” and “Cruel Road” don’t suddenly transform them into Electric Pallbearer, but the texture matters. Without that harshness, the melodies of cathartic closer “A Plea for Understanding” wouldn’t soar as high.

In the album’s final chorus, Campbell croons, “Try to forget the past/But nothing ever changes.” Despite the expanded palette, the sentiment extends to this record. Since the first crestfallen bass line of their demo, sculpting pain and hope into bittersweet beauty has defined Pallbearer. As Opeth can attest, heaviness is just one way to put a heartbeat back in the heartless.

— Sean Frasier

This review taken from the April 2017 issue. Heartless is available on CD and vinyl from Profound Lore.

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