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Heavy, harrowing and still uplifting
PALLBEARER with TOMBS and VATTNET VISKAR at Lee’s Palace, Friday, October 24. Rating: NNNN
Plenty of talk lately about the hot new fashion micro-trend: health goth. It’s like goth, except without all the pigeon chests and suicidal romanticism. Basically, it’s wearing a black shirt and trying reaaaally hard to contort your face into a sullen glower while doing your squat reps. Related, and maybe even funnier: the Metal Workout, an earlier attempt to take something that’s still sorta-subcultural and inject it with jocky beefiness.
And if the Metal Workout needs a spokesperson, they should consider tapping Mike Hill, guitarist/vocalist of Brooklyn experimental metal outfit Tombs, for their next infomercial. The guy is jacked – all head and shoulders and shrieking vocals. He’s the kind of metal nerd who looks like he proactively kicked the asses of any high school bullies dumb enough to even think about stepping to him. Packed out as Hill’s stony physique is Tombs’ music, which weaves together black metal, sludge, noise and good ol’ fashioned harmonized guitar riffing. A tough act to follow, for sure.
But then, do you know what happened? Pallbearer followed them! And how. The Arkansas doom metallers played to a crowded house in their long overdue Toronto appearance (a 2013 show that had them opening for Enslaved was cancelled after they got snowed in in Winnipeg).
As a longtime fan, I find it cool (and still a bit weird) that modern metal bands like Deafheaven and Pallbearer can crank out sophomore albums that are stone masterpieces, harnessing the hype and breadth of coverage metal is now offered to their betterment, making more than good on every inflated hope. Pallbearer’s latest, Foundations Of Burden, is that good, and the band lived up to it live. From the sluggish plods to the triumphant swells of guitars and angel-boy vocals of guitarist/singer Brett Campbell, the band showed their full range. (Admittedly, it’s not much of a range, per se, it’s more about what they accomplish within it.)
Pallbearer was undaunted by the finicky mic and the overly growly low end which washed out some of the bass and drums, overcoming PA snafus to string together an impressive, and emotional, set. The nine guys with Neurosis patches I counted seemed to like it. And so did the 60-year-old dad conspicuously plunked in the middle of the floor, who just as conspicuously resembled Mr. Holland.
Heavy, harrowing and still uplifting, and totally (ugh) “crowd-pleasing,” it feels sort of stupid to say that Pallbearer is what a pop doom metal band would sound like it. It’s more that they stand as a shaggy, sweaty representation of how far our ideas of what even constitutes “pop music” has expanded, for better or for worse.