Pallbearer – ‘Forgotten Days’

By Ellie Odurny

Three years on from their previous release, Arkansas doom rockers Pallbearer are back with their fourth studio album ‘Forgotten Days’, which sees a return to their earlier doom roots and heavy, crushing sound. Although written last year, the darker themes of the album feel particularly apt as a reflection on 2020 and the uncertainty that surrounds us all in these trying times.

Lyrically, the songs on this album match the sombre instrumentation, touching on themes of loss, regret and the passing of time. Vocalists and writers Brett Campbell and Joseph D. Rowland talk about how they write separately, but how their lyrics end up being connected nonetheless. With the topics of family and memory also featuring heavily on ‘Forgotten Days’, that sense of connection is apparent within the band’s writing and delivery of their songs, as well as in the external factors and forces addressed through the lyrics.

Title track and lead single ‘Forgotten Days’ opens with screeching feedback and an assortment of noise before crashing into big, doomy riffs; there’s a distinct air of retro heavy metal, with Sabbath-esque vocals and dark, growling bass. Continuing the retro vibes, ‘Riverbed’ mixes fuzzy guitars and cleaner vocals with a distinct nod to the proggier sounds of the seventies that are clearly a source of inspiration for much of Pallbearer’s material. The gritty, down-tuned bass line injects an element of heavier metal into what is, at times, a gentle melancholy lament.

One of the shorter numbers on the album, ‘Stasis’ opens with powerful vocals and guitar licks, later morphing into repetitive, drone-like bass with industrial overtones and hints of otherworldly synth. There’s a subtlety to the production that steers ‘Forgotten Days’ away from feeling too put together, yet still creates a cohesive and consistent sound spanning the eight tracks.

Pallbearer deliver an epic twelve-minute prog-tinged sludge journey in the middle of the album in the form of ‘Silver Wings’. Complete with chilling harmonies, a slow but deliberate beat and guitars dripping with emotion, the track demonstrates the kind of gloomy, dark doom that the band have made their own since launching their self-titled debut EP back in 2010. This measured, macabre sound might not appeal to the happy-go-lucky pop punk crowd or the high-octane thrash fanatics, but there’s enough contained energy and musical scope to deliver nuanced elements of prog, doom, and gothic metal for the discerning ear.

In contrast to the lengthy ‘Silver Wings’, ‘The Quicksand of Existing’ is one of the more upbeat tracks on ‘Forgotten Days’, with interesting rhythms and a faster pace. The third track to be released, it comes in at just under four minutes making it more accessible to the masses, with chugging guitars and impassioned lyricism. Second release ‘Rite of Passage’ is another shorter number in the same vein, with dramatic vocals reminiscent of old school heavy metal acts of the seventies and eighties.

‘Vengeance & Ruination’ offers more of the contemplative lyrics and vast, sorrowful chords layered over a devastating bass and drum section, around which ‘Forgotten Days’ is built. Pallbearer are captivating live, and you can sense on the entire album that they’ve worked to capture the magnetism they exude on stage. It’s considered but not overworked, steeped in gothic gloom but still engaging and emotive.

Final offering ‘Caledonia’ returns to familiar dirgey form, glorious in its trudging gloom. Awash with tortured chords, simple guitar solos and that crushing bass that’s prevalent throughout the record, the closing track reminds the listener where the band came from and what they do best. ‘Caledonia’ plays out with a simple, almost medieval refrain – an understated end to a restrained collection of heavy doom excellence.

ELLIE ODURNY

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