With success comes derision. You can see that already with the incredible debut album “Sorrow and Extinction” from Pallbearer, a stunning, elegant serving of old-school doom metal that seems to have won over most of the metal world. But if you look around, you’re starting to see the barbs, the arrows slung because so many people have embraced this record. That comes with the territory. Detractors think it’s an organized groundswell. But don’t listen to any of that if you haven’t visited with this incredible band yet. From the moment I first heard this album early in the year, I knew it was going to take a dramatic effort from another band to rip away its album-of-the-year status. We’re talking something I’ve felt strongly since January. I’ve been waiting that long to crown it. So now’s the time. Here it is. Meat Mead Metal’s No. 1 record of 2012. No other album really stood a chance.
The Arkansas-based band already did a killer job with their demo, and those of us who heard it already were clamoring for more. This album, to me, drew a line back to the genre’s beginnings. Most doom bands these days are embracing as much death as doom, and I’m cool with that. Love the approach. But I also love the nod back to the old guard, which Pallbearer seemed most intent to carry out. There is melody on top of melody, a great display of drama and emotion, and spectacular songs that should live through the ages. The magic of this album was immediate, and even upon recently getting my hands on the vinyl version of the album, it seemed to gain even more momentum with me. That’s rare these days. This is simply a no-brainer of a decision, and if they recorded it for Profound Lore or motherfucking Victory (that would be a hoot), it would be No. 1. Fuck it. It’s great.
We had the honor of talking to bassist Joseph D. Rowland about their debut album and what it meant to them. Many thanks to him for taking time and to the rest of his band members – guitarist/vocalist Brett Campbell, guitarist Devin Holt, and drummer Mark Lierly (Zach Stine played on the record) for their vision and artistic output. Long may they reign.
Meat Mead Metal: We’ve named “Sorrow and Extinction” as our No. 1 album of 2012. Obviously this record’s gotten a major amount of adulation from pretty much all over. Did you expect such a huge reaction to this record? Did you realize you had something special when you finished it?
Joseph Rowland: First of all, thanks! We definitely did not expect anything of the sort in terms of adulation or even attention the record has gotten in general. Of course, the album was special to us and was something we felt HAD to make. It had a big impact on us, but we didn’t envision that it would impact on so many others. If anything, we wanted something with lasting value, like I would think any musicians would, no matter who ended up listening or not.
MMM: Doom has had a pretty huge year both with the volume of releases and the amount of good music that came out of the genre. Pallbearer‘s approach is one of the more traditional out there — clean vocals, no growls, a lot of drama. Did the band have a desire to do something different from everyone else? Or is this just a summation of your influences and personal tastes?
JR: I think our approach definitely comes from a different place than at least a good portion of bands playing what people would consider doom metal. Honestly I find a lot of today’s doom to be kind of uninspiring. Many bands seem too focused on just riffing out or trying to make things sound “evil” or “psychedelic” with not nearly enough attention to songwriting. I don’t mind seeing bands like this in a live setting when I’ve had a few beers, but it’s just not really a compelling listen in my opinion. Our interests lie pretty specifically with bands like Camel, Marillion, and Pink Floyd when it comes to how we look at melody and sense of feeling within how our songs tend to fit together. So while what we make may still be fairly traditional in one way or another, we’re at least going at it in a way that’s exciting to us, and maybe interests others too.
MMM: Your record was released by Profound Lore, one of the most respected labels in underground metal. Who pursued who? Did the band have a desire to be on the label, or did they track you down? How do you feel about the relationship?
JR: I don’t want to get too deeply into the business surrounding labels pursuing us about the album out of respect for people’s affairs, but we had been talking for some time to Chris (Bruni) at Profound Lore, thanks to Mike from LOSS getting us in touch. Once we were totally certain about moving forward with Profound Lore, we did so and have enjoyed it very much since. Chris is great to work with, and I feel it’s been very mutually beneficial thus far.
MMM: The band certainly has been busy touring. Are the songs changing at all in a live setting? Are you expanding on anything or trying anything new that grew out of the songs being played live?
JR: We’re always tinkering with pieces here and there, plus adding a bit of expanded improvisational parts too. We’re definitely not a band that flourishes in playing the songs exactly like the recording. I think there are always opportunities to make little new points of interest and in-the-moment inspiration to possibly make every performance a bit unique, without going too overboard of course. Although it’s possible that we might have done that a time or two depending on how much we’d had to drink before we played!
MMM: Any thoughts on new material yet?
JR: We’ve got a lot of new things in the works, some of which will be the second album and some on some smaller releases.
MMM: The band has a huge tour coming up in 2013 with Enslaved. Very diverse bill as well with Royal Thunder and Ancient Vvisdom. Is that going to be a landmark accomplishment for the band? What do you hope to get out of such a huge journey?
JR: I just found out that Royal Thunder is added to the tour, which rules. We love those folks to death! We had a great run with them back in September. The tour is definitely going to be interesting and very cold! We’re not used to serious wintry weather and are dreading that a bit. It might add a bit of grim edge to our playing on the tour! We’re looking forward to it though. It will be exciting playing with legends like Enslaved, in places we have yet to venture so far! We look forward to exploring some new locations, assuming we don’t freeze to death, and of course getting to meet up with old and new fans and friends along the way.
MMM: Looking back on 2012, what are some of the highs, and maybe even some lows, you take away that will help build the band toward its future?
JR: It would be tough for me to go into all the highs. We’ve had a lot of amazing opportunities given to us this year, and we’ve met some truly incredible and gracious people. One of the big highlights for me was playing two special one-off shows in one night in Brooklyn, New York, back in May. It was our first time in NYC, and it was just a stellar time. I found out while we were there that the venue hosting the first show of the night, Saint Vitus Bar, was located on the same street that much of one of my all-time favorite movies was filmed on (the movie is “Street Trash,” by the way, one of the best sleazy ’80s horror films) so it made that night into something I won’t forget. And while there has definitely been a lot to celebrate in a way, in terms of low points, it was disappointing when our former drummer Chuck informed us of his plans to leave the band. But even that resulted in a great situation with our current line-up which I feel is stronger than ever. We’ve also dealt with some personal hardships, which always add fuel to our slow-burning creative fires. So good or bad, the band is definitely pushing forward into even more complex headspace of darkness and light. It will be interesting to see where it leads.
For more on the band, go here: http://www.facebook.com/pallbearerdoom
To buy the album, go here: http://www.profoundlorerecords.com/products-page/plr-items/pallbearer-sorrow-and-extinction/
To buy the vinyl, go here: http://www.20buckspinshop.com/collections/front/products/pallbearer-sorrow-and-extinction-2xlp
For more on the label, go here: http://www.profoundlorerecords.com/