What started as an underground doom metal band with tremendous potential, is now set to release one of the most anticipated doom albums of 2020. I am talking about PALLBEARER, the Arkansas based American quartet that has been steadily climbing the ladder to worldwide renown in the scene. Now signed to acclaimed label Nuclear Blast, their fourth album, “Forgotten Days,” has fans all around the world rubbing their hands in anticipation. In this global climate of fear and uncertainty, this latest addition to the doom metal music library is a welcome diversion from what at times seems to be our actual impending doom (pun, as always, intended).
PALLBEARER has a very particular kind of sound that resonates with a bigger audience than just doom metal fans. This doesn’t mean, however, that the band takes it more mainstream with every album, as is certainly not the case with this fourth album, either. The recognisable PALLBEARER signature is still there, as is apparent from the first track onward. Title track “Forgotten Days” oozes melancholy, and is admittedly the most epic opener I have heard in quite a while, with its straightforwardly monumental riffs coming in with thundering power like the four horsemen during the apocalypse.
After this mindblowing opening track, the record winds down a little. Follow-up track “Riverbed” is a mid-tempo slow burner that spikes the listener’s curiosity for what is yet to come. “Silver Wings” and “Rite Of Passage” are more of a throwback to previous record “Heartless,” that explored a more progressive route, without straying too far from their own style. The aforementioned “Silver Wings” is the centrepiece of this dark banquet, with its creeping build-up and multifaceted synths, as it were a hymn to the volatility of human existence. I have to admit, some of these longer song arrangements are more difficult to digest than others, but the way the tracks cohesively flow into one another creates a storyline you find yourself getting hooked to. It never becomes a tedious listen.
The two shortest songs on the album, “Stasis” and “The Quicksand of Existing,” are four minutes each. I wondered if this brevity wouldn’t feel hurried, trying to fit all of PALLBEARER’s formula into it. Yet, the opposite is true, the tracks grab your attention immediately and the band manages to pull off the exact same atmosphere that is present in the longer arrangements. I would even argue that the compelling instrumentals and engaging vocals come into their own better. Short and sweet, one would say.
The mastering on this album is something else. I wouldn’t mind self-quarantining (yes, this is a word now) if all recent releases had this level of sound quality. Producer Randall Dunn has done a terrific job on polishing “Forgotten Days” to the magnificent gem it has turned out to be. There is also much to be said about the themes on this record, heavy with deep emotions such as grief, accompanied by unhealthy coping mechanisms. In an age like this, the lyrics really hit home and turn “Forgotten Days” into a very powerful catalyst to feel these difficult emotions. Do not get me wrong, there is no wallowing going on whatsoever; it’s more like a testament to live life to the fullest before it passes you by, which includes allowing yourself to feel deeply. Even in all this darkness, if one looks hard enough, there is light.
This is a very impressive label debut, to say the least. Much more accessible than previous effort “Heartless,” PALLBEARER manages to stay true to their roots while simultaneously digging them deeper into the sludgy mud that is doom metal, standing tall like an ancient oak. In a time like this, with next to no touring possibilities, “Forgotten Days” is a record that stands out as an actual organic experience, almost like you would be watching the band live on stage. A welcome respite that will warm many a fan’s heart, and give them hope for the – for now – uncertain future.
Written by Jana De Boeck
- Forgotten Days
- Silver Wings
- The Quicksand of Existing
- Vengeance & Ruination
- Rite of Passage
Brett Campbell – Vocals, Synths
Joseph D. Rowland – Bass, Vocals, Synths
Devin Holt – Guitar, Vocals
Mark Lierly – Drums