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Not On Radar: Pallbearer – Sorrow & Extinction

By Will Ryan; March 5, 2012 at 1:49 PM 

There are a few deeply embedded scenes in the music world that we don’t really have our ear to, but some records like Pallbearer’s Sorrow & Extinction manage to gather enough critical acclaim to get our attention after the fact. Metal happens to be one of those scenes. I reviewed Liturgy and Wolves in the Throne Room last year and my colleague Daniel Griffiths reviewed Mastodon’s most recent outing, but those are a few acts as close to achieving indie crossover status as it gets in the sludge and black metal worlds. In any case, Sorrow & Extinction wasn’t on our radar and it’d probably be a little disingenuous to review it only because certain outlets singled it out while we didn’t cover other excellent doom records from the past year like YOB’s Atma or 40 Watt Sun’s The Inside Room. However, I still wanted to jot a few thoughts down about the record as it’s one of the most enjoyable I’ve heard all year.

The thing that strikes me most is the album’s tone. Or contrast of tones. It’s deeply indebted to Saint Vitus’ take on Sabbath-ian stoner doom, but it’s exceedingly melodic without cutting close to the realm of pop music like many metal groups tend to when aiming for immediacy. The riffs cultivate a throttling, mountainous heaviness and never really settle around a single repetitive chord structure despite finding the same trance-inducing pace as Sleep’s Dopesmoker. The vocal comparisons between singer Brett Campbell and Ozzy Osbourne are pretty spot on, but Campbell’s attain a more soaring and nuanced quality. Essentially, it’s an album of doom ballads, as odd is that sounds. The group will sometimes settle into a viscous groove or break into a white-knuckled bout of guitar noise, but for the most part Campbell’s vocals are front and center, ever-reaching for heightened transcendence as the riffs and sonorous guitar melodies writhe restrained beneath him. If anything those more frantic moments only further serve the severity of the tone Campbell’s vocals set. It’s an incredibly striking balance to tow, especially when much of Sorrow & Extinction is sort of familiar. Emotionally, it treads a similar ground as Zeppelin’s Tolkien-ian odes, but its doom-y extremes blow it out into something quite unique. (more…)