Pallbearer - Heartless
Mar 14, 2017 (updated Mar 19, 2017)
85
I have been to the mountaintop.

"Heartless" is a heavy and - contrary to its name - heartfelt rock album for the ages. Pallbearer have crafted their finest album yet, a timeless sounding record of spacious, psychedelic metal propelled by sky-scraping guitar leads and thrilling vocal harmonies. Pallbearer are known as a doom metal band, but if "Foundations of Burden" found them playing to the limits of the genre, then "Heartless" is where they vault over the wall into a transcendent heaviness that is entirely their own. Anyone reared on Zeppelin, Floyd, or Sabbath should be able to appreciate the sublime beauty and towering musicianship on display. Brett Campbell has been acclaimed as one of the best singers in metal since Pallbearer came onto the scene with "Sorrow & Extinction," and he gives the performance of his career on "Heartless," the human anchor in the band's elemental assault.

The album opens with the apocalyptic grandeur of "I Saw the End" and builds toward the cathartic closer, "A Plea for Understanding." That track is like nothing in Pallbearer's catalog so far - a show-stopping power ballad that ends the album on a note of emotional directness that is new for Pallbearer and rare for their genre. The songs in between are sprawling, majestic, and stirring. Pallbearer use repetition sparingly, and only "Plea" has a recognizable chorus (even then you hear it twice over the course of a 12 minute song). That doesn't give you much to latch onto your first time through, but the more the record sinks in, the more exhilarating these compositions become. The band is always in forward motion, always ascending to a new vista.

Comprised of seven songs but clocking in at just about an hour, the epic scope of "Heartless" may be the one thing that holds listeners back. Trust me: this is a journey worth taking.
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