We talk about it a lot, but it’s always worth bringing up. What we all ultimately want from artists is an original vision of how they create music, and over time we want to hear how that sound changes and evolves into a wholly unique idea. Pallbearer might be the perfect example of that kind of band to discuss right now. Here we are at the end of the teens with a decade’s worth of material from the band with a demo, 3 full-length records, and a few EPs and singles scattered throughout. Each entry in their discography represents another step toward that goal of achieving the ultimate musical expression.
I say what we as listeners want as though artists are required to deliver it. The other part of the equation is that you want it to happen organically, not as a result of pressure put on them. There are numerous examples of times artists tried something new because their audience or the market demanded it. That leads to lower quality because your heart just isn’t in it. You want a natural progression of sound. Thankfully, that’s what we’ve gotten from Pallbearer over the last 10 years, and they’re rounding out the decade with Forgotten Days, the culmination of what this band has been striving for since its inception.
From the moment the lead single was released, I had a sneaking suspicion that Pallbearer was going to drop a monster with Forgotten Days. The opening title track is a classic variation on a Pallbearer track. The slow fade-in of feedback and white noise leading into the rhythmic drum fill followed by what I can only describe as a big ass caveman fuzz riff. It’s the kind of riff doom fans love, so whatever you’re thinking this sounds like is probably correct.
While I personally love all of that, the best part of the track is the melodic turn for the bridge into the guitar solo. My biggest criticism of Heartless was that those melodic sections didn’t feel quite so natural to me. They didn’t feel like Pallbearer. They felt like a studio executive came in and told them, “You’ll do it my way so we can sell a lot more records.” That isn’t a criticism against the band at all as artists should be allowed to experiment with sounds and try new things. And while I personally didn’t care for it quite as much on Heartless, they clearly thought hard about those moments and how they could use them more effectively in their music going forward.
I don’t mean to focus so intensely on an opening track, or indeed any single track at all on an album review. But “Forgotten Days” is a great metaphor for the album as a whole and Pallbearer’s music career. It’s still the same heavy and dramatic riffs of Sorrow and Extinction and Foundations of Burden infused with some of the songwriting and production qualities from Heartless. However, there are long sections of the track that delve into their signature brand of long-form progressive songwriting like they did on their first albums. So “Forgotten Days” as the metaphor of this record and career is big riffs, dramatic melodies, mature songwriting, and a fuller production that fills up your headphones.
Bits and pieces of those aspects existed throughout Pallbearer’s discography, but they haven’t come together until Forgotten Days. The Pallbearer grooves and heaviness is back in droves, but it’s also infused with some of the more uptempo elements from Heartless. “Stasis” is the perfect example of such a song. The drum beat is a slower pace but still gives the track a good direction. It’s that perfect beat to get you to groove with the track even when you’re sitting down. That bass-heavy sound from earlier records is also back and makes the whole song so much heavier. Meanwhile, the guitars blast wall-of-sound riffs and beautiful melodic fills. It is absolutely the perfect balance of everything Pallbearer has done before, only now finally brought together.
Pallbearer has mastered their craft on Forgotten Days. There are no other words for what is happening. It is the perfect culmination of everything they’ve done so far. I struggle to find words not quite so hyperbolic, but those are all I can come up with now. It is a beautiful masterpiece of a record. I can’t think of many artists who truly examine their careers, find the best pieces of their craft, figure out why they work so well, then just put all those things together. It’s such a simple idea but also just astonishing. I think after only a single listen, anyone would agree.
Pallbearer’s Forgotten Days will see release on October 23rd. You can pre-order it right here.